Neurology News Roundup

June 9, 2009

Read news about how a diabetes treatment may help MS patients, prevalence of stroke in gender, the side effects of dementia treatments, and more.

Stroke Clot-buster Works as Well in Women as in Men

New studies have confirmed that women and men “who’ve had a stroke have similar outcomes after they’re treated with the clot-buster drug tPA.” Previous studies have showed that compared to men, women treated with tPA do not fare as well. After analyzing the data of stroke patients who received tPA at the Bichat University Hospital in Paris, France, Dr. Pierre Marino and colleagues found “little evidence that gender had any effect.”

New Tool Can Help Predict Alzheimer's Risks

Researchers have created a checklist that “can accurately predict whether a person over 65 is at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease within six years.” As reported in the journal Neurology, this checklist consists of a “15-point scales of several well-known risk factors for Alzheimer’s” as well as lesser-known risk factors. Deborah Barnes, researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, said that “having a tool that can predict the risk of developing Alzheimer’s could help doctors keep an eye on patients and help companies develop drugs to treat the early stages of the mind-robbing disease.”

Drug's Epilepsy-prevention Effect May Be Widely Applicable

Although the FDA-approved drug rapamycin has the “potential to prevent epilepsy caused by a genetic condition,” researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO have found that it might also “help prevent more common forms of epilepsy caused by brain injury.” The researchers found that the drug “blocks brain changes believed to cause seizures in rats.” These results are encouraging, and senior author Michael Wong, MD, PhD, said, “We hope to shift the focus from stopping seizures to preventing the brain abnormalities that cause seizures in the first place.”

Dementia Drugs May Put Some Patients at Risk

Dr. Sudeep Gill, geriatrics professor at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, is leading a study that is investigating the side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors that treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He said that the side effects “may be putting elderly Canadians at risk.” Fainting spells and slower heart rates are some of the side effects, but Gill and his colleagues have found that people treated with cholinesterase inhibitors “were hospitalized for fainting almost twice as often as people with dementia who did not receive these drugs.” Gill acknowledges that these drugs are some of the few “effective dementia treatments available today,” but he cautions that “patients, caregivers and physicians be aware of the potential side effects, and weight these risks carefully against the potential for beneficial effects.”

Diabetes Drug Shows Promise Against Multiple Sclerosis

The preliminary results from a one-year trial conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine who evaluated the effectiveness of treating patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis with the type 2 diabetes drugs pioglitazone (Actos) are very encouraging. The results “showed significantly less loss of gray matter over the course of the one-year trial than patients taking placebo,” and the patients taking pioglitazone who completed the study “had no adverse reactions.” Douglas Feinstein, research professor of anesthesiology of UIC said, “Gray matter in the brain is the part that is rich in neurons. These preliminary results suggest that the drug has important effects on neuronal survival.”

Findings in Epilepsy Gene in Animals May Guide Treatment Directions for Infants

Lead author Jeffrey A. Golden, MD, pathologist-in-chief at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and his team have been working with genetically engineered mice to “provide a new opportunity for scientists to test treatments that may benefit children.” Once they removed the Arx gene was removed, the mice experienced seizures that resembled human infantile spasms. Golden said that the “new animal model provides an important tool,” which allows researchers to “screen existing drugs to see if they are effective against this type of epilepsy.”