Ibuprofen may prevent Alzheimer's disease

Wednesday, 28 March, 2018

Ibuprofen may prevent Alzheimer's disease

If started early enough, a daily regimen of the non-prescription NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) ibuprofen can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

This means that by taking an over-the-counter medication, people can ward off a disease that, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International’s World Alzheimer Report 2016, affects an estimated 47 million people worldwide, costs healthcare systems worldwide more than US$818 billion per year and is the fifth-leading cause of death in those aged 65 or older.

The research, overseen by Canadian neuroscientist Dr Patrick McGeer and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, builds on 2016 findings in which Dr McGeer and his team announced their development of a simple saliva test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, as well as predict its future onset.

The test is based on measuring the concentration of the peptide amyloid-beta protein 42 (Abeta 42) secreted in saliva. In most individuals, the rate of Abeta 42 production is almost exactly the same regardless of sex or age. However, if that rate of production is two to three times higher, those individuals are destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease. That is because Abeta 42 is a relatively insoluble material and, although it is made everywhere in the body, deposits of it occur only in the brain. This causes neuroinflammation, which destroys neurons in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Contrary to the widely held belief that Abeta 42 is made only in the brain, Dr McGeer’s team demonstrated that the peptide is made in all organs of the body and is secreted in saliva from the submandibular gland. As a result, with as little as one teaspoon of saliva, it is possible to predict whether an individual is destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This gives them an opportunity to begin taking early preventative measures, such as consuming non-prescription non-steroidal drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. 

“What we’ve learned through our research is that people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s exhibit the same elevated Abeta 42 levels as people who already have it; moreover, they exhibit those elevated levels throughout their lifetime so, theoretically, they could get tested anytime,” said Dr McGeer. “Knowing that the prevalence of clinical Alzheimer’s disease commences at age 65, we recommend that people get tested 10 years before, at age 55, when the onset of Alzheimer’s would typically begin. If they exhibit elevated Abeta 42 levels then, that is the time to begin taking daily ibuprofen to ward off the disease.

“Unfortunately, most clinical trials to date have focused on patients whose cognitive deficits are already mild to severe, and when the therapeutic opportunities in this late stage of the disease are minimal. Consequently, every therapeutic trial has failed to arrest the disease’s progression. Our discovery is a game changer. We now have a simple test that can indicate if a person is fated to develop Alzheimer’s disease long before it begins to develop. Individuals can prevent that from happening through a simple solution that requires no prescription or visit to a doctor. This is a true breakthrough, since it points in a direction where AD can eventually be eliminated.”

Dr Patrick McGeer. Image credit: Aurin Biotech.

Top image credit: ©Darren Whittingham/Dollar Photo Club

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