Seaweed for Alzheimer’s?
Chinese regulators have conditionally approved a new seaweed-based treatment for Alzheimer’s—a potential breakthrough that has been greeted with both enthusiasm and caution. In a clinical trial involving 818 people, the drug, Oligomannate, improved cognitive function in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The researchers say the benefits were apparent within just four weeks of starting treatment and endured throughout the 36-week trial. The drug’s approval means it can go on sale in China while further trials are carried out there, but clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe aren’t scheduled to start until 2020. Its developers say a sugar in seaweed helps suppress bacteria in the gut that can cause degeneration and inflammation of the brain. But many scientists in the U.S. and Europe remain skeptical, noting that trials in the West typically last longer and are larger. “It’s good to see that drug regulators in China are prioritizing emerging treatments for Alzheimer’s,” Carol Routledge, a British Alzheimer’s researcher, tells Scientific American. “But we do still need to see more evidence that this drug is safe and effective.”