Hospitals take another step closer to providing effective, personalized treatment for Alzheimer’s disease with new national research program
Alzheimer’s disease is a deadly neurological disease that is the most common cause of dementia in the United States. While an estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, highly effective treatments for this condition are yet to be discovered.
Dementia is known to lead to poor outcomes. A review in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine states, “Patients with dementia do badly in hospital with frequent adverse events resulting in the geriatric syndromes of falls, delirium and loss of function with increased length of stay and increased mortality.” Because Alzheimer’s disease can lead to poor outcomes, effectively treating it should be a priority for hospitals.
What is Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP AD 2.0)?
One of the more promising approaches to treating Alzheimer’s disease is the application of precision medicine to this condition. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced a new program to explore this possibility. This program is called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership Alzheimer’s disease program (AMP AD 2.0) and, according to the NIH, will “accelerate the discovery of new drug targets, biomarkers, and disease subtypes.”
This program builds on an earlier program and is the second phase of this research by the NIH. During the first AMP AD program, research teams focused on generating a bank of data that “led to many new insights on the role of the genome, proteome, metabolome, and microbiome in the disease process.” These different areas of insights all have the common factor of being patient-specific factors that allow for a precision medicine-based approach to diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.
The new NIH program, AMP AD 2.0, will run over five years and include six multi-institutional, cross-disciplinary academic research teams. The NIH will contribute an estimated $61.4 million for this project. The goal of this project, according to NIH, is to “refine the characterization of new targets, discover new fluid biomarkers, define disease subtypes, and increase the understanding of causative factors and steps in disease progression.”
NIH Director on Alzheimer’s Disease Precision Medicine Program
“Unraveling the complex biological mechanisms that cause Alzheimer’s disease is critical for therapeutic development,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, “AMP AD 2.0 aims to add greater precision to the molecular maps developed in the first iteration of this program. This will identify biological targets and biomarkers to inform new therapeutic interventions for specific disease subtypes.”
“This partnership offers real hope to the tens of millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease,” said Maria C. Freire, PhD, President and Executive Director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health as part of an NIH statement. “Collaboration through the first round of AMP AD has already enabled breakthrough advances in researchers’ understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease progresses, uncovering numerous potential targets for drug therapy in a field where treatment options are severely limited.”
Alzheimer’s Disease Precision Medicine: Groundbreaking Work at Mount Sinai
A precision medicine-based approach to Alzheimer’s disease research is already paying off. In the first few days of 2021, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai published a study identifying three different subtypes of Alzheimer’s disease based on individuals’ genetics. By understanding which type of subtype an individual has, personalized treatment may become possible.
“Such differences strongly suggest there are subtypes of Alzheimer’s disease with different biological and molecular factors driving disease progression,” said Bin Zhang, PhD, lead author of the study, Director of the Center for Transformative Disease Modeling, and Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine.
“These findings lay down a foundation for determining more effective biomarkers for early prediction of Alzheimer’s, studying causal mechanisms of Alzheimer’s, developing next-generation therapeutics for Alzheimer’s, and designing more effective and targeted clinical trials, ultimately leading to precision medicine for the disease.”
As new studies continue to emerge, and further NIH funding and efforts are funneled into applying precision medicine to Alzheimer’s disease research, new and effective treatments may soon be possible. Strides made in Alzheimer’s disease research highlight the benefits that precision medicine can offer to hospitals that are researching and treating this disease.
– Caleb Williams