Former First Lady Nancy Reagan died at age 94 this week. During her husband Ronald’s political career, she was one of his most-trusted advisers. But perhaps her most significant role came during his final years.
In 1994, President Regan was diagnosed with a mysterious neurodegenerative disease called Alzheimer’s. Nancy became his primary caregiver and a fierce advocate for a cure, even after his death 10 years later.
In the U.S., an estimated 5.3 million people were living with Alzheimer’s in 2015. About 5.1 million were age 65 or older.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most-common cause of dementia, which causes memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving and language.
Over time, Alzheimer’s disease worsens to the point where patients can completely lose any idea of who they are. They may have little to no recollection of their lives leading up to the present moment.
This cognitive decline is frustrating and, ultimately, tragic for the patient. It may be just as difficult for loved ones, who watch as the person they care so much about becomes just a stranger living in the body of someone they used to know.
You see, the body is still there, but the mind is gone — a horrific assault on life to say the least. Before President Reagan died at the age of 93, one article we read about him said he had the body of a healthy 60-year-old.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association …
Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th-leading cause of death in the United States.
There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year because they have Alzheimer’s.
1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.
It’s important to note that, as of today, there is nothing on the market that is able to cure Alzheimer’s. But recently, scientists took a major step forward in slowing the progression of, and possibly even preventing, this disease.
The treatment that’s currently heading to clinical trials is a natural product that chemists have already patented. It’s a botanical compound called withanamides.
Withanamides are derived from the plant Ashwagandha, an herbal remedy that’s been used in Eastern medicine for centuries.
Related story: Relieve stress naturally with the Ashwagandha herb
While plants cannot be patented, compounds from it can.
Michigan State University holds the patent for withanamides. And earlier research revealed that the compound, found in the plant’s seeds, proved to be a powerful antioxidant.
So powerful, in fact, that it’s double the strength of what’s on today’s market.
Muraleedharan Nair, a natural products chemist at MSU, had this to say about the plant’s compound:
"Our compound withanamides may work to prevent Alzheimer’s disease at the onset, and it also could prevent its progression."
According to ScienceDaily.com,
"Alzheimer’s begins when a specific protein starts breaking, or cleaving, at the wrong place to produce an unwanted fragment. This bad fragment, called BAP, stresses cells’ membranes, sparks plaque formation and eventually kills the cells. This attack begins in the frontal lobe, erasing memories and continuing its unrelenting assault deeper into the brain."
To date, pharmaceutical companies have focused their efforts on blocking this "bad break." But the dilemma is that the majority of this process is healthy for the brain.
The better approach, as Nair outlined it:
"Rather than trying to stop only the malevolent cleaving, our compound keeps the bad protein from entering the cell where it does its damage. Our studies have shown that withanamides effectively protect the brain cells by neutralizing the effect of BAP."
Nair and his collaborators published in Phytotherapy Research that withanamides protected mouse brain cells from BAP damage.
A recent study, also published in Phytotherapy Research and using mouse models, showed that withanamides passed the blood-brain barrier. That’s the filter that controls which chemicals reach the brain.
The results showed the compound reaching its intended target, passing the last test before advancing to human testing.
After the clinical trials, Nair and his Natural Therapeutics company plan to pursue FDA approval for this Alzheimer’s treatment.
"Dr. Nair discovered his molecule in a food-safe plant," said Jim Richter, Natural Therapeutics president. "It’s also classified as GRAS — generally regarded as safe — by the FDA. This means that we can bypass many of the hurdles that slow synthetic molecules that need testing. By compressing the timeline dramatically, we’ll be able to save tens of millions of dollars, and if successful, bring an effective treatment to Alzheimer’s patients."
If proven effective, this could be a remarkable treatment that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression in current patients. The millions of lives saved would be nothing short of a major triumph for medical care and all of humanity.
Happy and healthy investing,