Therefore, drugs like Memantine may make life easier for the majority of caregivers who look after loved ones with the disease at home and may not have the resources that would be available in a nursing home.
Forrest Pharmaceuticals, the U.S. manufacturer of the drug, is expected to file for FDA approval sometime this year. The company is also exploring uses for the drug in earlier stages of the disease and in conjunction with currently approved treatments.
And despite cautions against misinterpreting the potential clinical benefits of Memantine, experts are enthusiastic about what the study results mean for laboratory science and how they translate into human treatments.
"The excitement here comes from having confirmed that it is possible to use our basic science research on mice and isolated nerve cells to successfully alter the course of Alzheimer's in a human suffering from the disease," says Gandy. "This positive feedback suggests that much of what we think we know about the disease might actually be true."
That means that even if Memantine itself does not continue to show benefit in future studies, its development may pave the way for other similar treatments and increase enthusiasm for attaining a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease mechanisms.
"Such information about the causes and very earliest brain abnormalities will soon lead to the discovery of drugs that might well be effective at preventing, treating, or perhaps even reversing the devastation that Alzheimer's wreaks on the brain," explains Gandy.