Blood plasma from young donors breathes fresh life into Alzheimer’s patients

Blood plasma from young donors breathes fresh life into Alzheimer’s patients
Stanford University researchers are reporting a small but encouraging victory in the uphill battle against the neurodegenerative disease Alzheimer's.

The team recently presented details from a small test that suggested injecting people suffering from the brain disorder with blood plasma is safe, tolerable and provides some respite, at the 10th Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease in Boston.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that around 5 million Americans are living with the form of dementia. By 2050 the health organization estimates that number could rise to a whopping 16 million.

Searching for a cure to the degenerative disease, Stanford University School of Medicine made progress in administering blood plasma infusions to patients suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

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Consisting of 18 patients, the study was geared towards determining if human plasma – which contains enzymes, antibodies and proteins – had any ill-effects on patients.

The trial’s lead investigator, Sharon Sha said not only was the procedure found to have few side effects – itching was observed in the experiment – improvement to functions such as remembering medication was achieved in some instances.

“That was surprising to me. The trial wasn’t powered to show efficacy,” Sha said in a statement. “Our enthusiasm concerning these findings needs to be tempered by the fact that this was a small trial. But these results certainly warrant further study.”

The latest trial took place at Stanford Hospital, with subjects given four weekly infusions of plasma from 18-30 year old donors. A sample of patients were given saline solution as a placebo in the trial that lasted approximately six months.

Any improvement to brain functions were then tracked through tests and questionnaires. The evidence adds to research led by Stanford professor Tony Wyss-Coray and neuroscientist Saul A Villeda, who found that blood from young mice “can counteract and reverse pre-existing effects of brain aging” in older mice.

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“I’m excited to see that giving repeated infusions of plasma to elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease is safe and that we can move forward to larger studies,” Wyss-Coray said. “But I’m also realistic enough to know that it’s very easy to cure diseases in small animals and a million times more difficult in humans.”