Studies explore intra-nasal mode of combatting Alzheimer's

ST. PAUL, Minn. Studies have been taken place for decades to find ways to combat Alzheimer’s disease, but recently news has been spreading that the way to fight it is with intranasal treatments, according to published reports.

Several studies are using the nose-to-brain method of delivering drugs that was invented in the late 1980s and patented by William Frey II, director of an Alzheimer’s research center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Last month, researchers in Washington State reported using intranasal insulin to improve memory and attention for patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

Most nasal sprays are directed to the lower part of the nose so medication can quickly enter the bloodstream. Drugs to treat neurological conditions don’t work through this route, though, because of the protective blood-brain barrier.

While this blockade of cells and blood vessels protects the brain and spinal chord from harmful organisms, it also keeps out most drugs and has blocked otherwise promising therapies.

Avoiding this barrier is what makes intranasal delivery “a potentially powerful therapeutic tool,” according to the Washington research group. Its study was small, with 24 patients receiving daily insulin or a placebo, but the results, published in the journal Neurology, were persuasive.

Patients taking intranasal insulin were mentally sharper, and their blood sugar levels remained healthy.

The goal now is to see if pharmaceutical manufacturers will take this information and try to develop something for the market and the 5.1 million Americans who suffer from this disease.

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