Scientists are showing cautious excitement for a new drug that has been shown to destroy the characteristic protein plaques that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Experts are hesitant because the drug, aducanumab, is still in the early stages of development. However, a study published in Nature magazine has declared it safe and effective at significantly reducing memory decline. Larger studies are now under way to fully evaluate the drug’s effects.

The study included 165 patients with early stages of the disease – after a year of treatment, it showed that the higher the dose, the stronger the effect on amyloid plaques. The researchers then carried out tests on memory and found “positive effects”.

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“No existing treatments for Alzheimer’s directly interfere with the disease process and so a drug that actually slows the progress of the disease by clearing amyloid would be a significant step,” says Dr. David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

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