Geng Meiyu (front row, left) and her research team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have successfully developed the first world’s medication for Alzheimer’s Disease in nearly 20 years. Photo: Xinhua
The world’s first new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in nearly two decades – and perhaps the only treatment with the potential to reverse the condition – was approved by the Chinese government on Saturday night.
The National Medical Products Administration said the drug, Oligomannate, had been approved for the treatment of “mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and improving cognitive function”.
Beijing neurologist Dr Song Juexian spoke for many in her profession when she said: “Long in the dark, the Alzheimer’s disease has finally seen a break of dawn from the East.” Song, from Xuanwu Hospital, also cautioned that it was “far from the end of the battle”.
The development of Oligomannate was inspired by the relatively low occurrence of Alzheimer’s among elderly people who regularly consumed seaweed.
Packaging for Oligomannate, the new medication for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, which is expected to be available for patients in China before the end of the year. Photo: Xinhua News
The Chinese research team, led by Dr Geng Meiyu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, started looking into possible connections and, in 1997, identified a unique sugar in seaweed which might play an important role in the phenomenon.
They did not anticipate that developing the idea into an effective drug would take them more than two decades.
“I did feel lonely sometimes, because others were all developing small molecule medicines. Using sugar (with large molecular structure) was … unprecedented,” Geng said, in an interview last year with Shanghai Observer.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. As brain cells degenerate, symptoms progress from repeated words, depression, getting lost in familiar neighbourhoods, to forgetting the faces of family members. There will be 150 million Alzheimer’s patients around the world by 2050, according to the World Health Organisation, and more than a quarter of them will be in China.
The decline in brain function caused by Alzheimer’s can be divided into seven stages, and the new drug has been proven effective on conditions up to stage 4, which includes difficulty to add simple numbers, recall what was eaten for breakfast, pay bills or remember details about life histories.
Since it was first identified by German doctor Alois Alzheimer in 1906, the disease has remained one of the health industry’s biggest headaches.
Over the past two decades pharmaceutical companies have invested hundreds of billions of US dollars and brought more than 320 candidate drugs to clinical trial. Only five were approved for clinical use to relieve symptoms, and none could stop the brain cells from withering away. Due to repeated costly failures, Alzheimer’s-related programmes have been terminated in many large medical companies.
A major challenge for the Chinese research team was to explain the mechanism, with authorities reluctant to approve a new drug unless researchers could explain exactly why it worked. There were many theories on the causes of Alzheimer’s, but none seemed to apply to the drug.
In September, Geng’s team published a paper announcing a major discovery. They had found that Oligomannat was, in fact, a multitasking agent. It not only reduces the formation of a protein harmful to neurons, but also regulates the bacterium colonies in human intestines to reduce the risk of brain inflammation.
It is unclear whether the Chinese government’s approval of the drug was linked to ongoing competition with the United States on trade and technology. US company Biogen last month relaunched its efforts to seek FDA approval for its new Alzheimer’s drug, after earlier terminating two large clinical trials due to poor results.
In what some mainland medical researchers say is a sign the Chinese government still has concerns, the approval for Oligomannate was not unconditional.
Green Valley, the Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company which is to produce the drug, was “required to continue research on pharmacological mechanisms and long-term evaluation on safety and effectiveness,” according to the approval document.
In a clinical trial on more than 800 volunteers, the new drug was shown to improve cognitive performance by an average of 2.54 points in a standard test with scores from 0 to 70, in which patients scoring 16 points or more could be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Lu Songtao, president of Green Valley, said the drug was in production at a plant in Liaoning province, northeast China, and would be available to the domestic market before the end of the year. Construction, to US standards, would also soon begin on a new factory in Shanghai, he added at a press conference organised by the Shanghai government on Sunday.
“If the construction can be finished within three years, this factory will be able to satisfy demand for two million patients every year,” Lu said. “Hopefully the drug will become available in global markets at around the same time,” he added.
Doctors cautioned that Oligomannate would not cure brains which had degenerated beyond repair. Patients with severe conditions, such as wandering, and who needed help with toileting and bathing, would not benefit from using the medicine.
It is also not recommended as a precautionary medication for older people who do not display any symptoms of Alzheimer’s, as its effect on the mass population remains unclear.
A bowl of deep red cherries is the perfect summertime snack. But, did you know these delicious little fruits have lots of health benefits? Here, Gabriel Patterson, fitness trainer and nutrition expert, shares five reasons to add cherries to your diet:
There are many ways to add cherries to your meals; the most obvious way is to eat them raw. However, dried cherries mixed with other fruits and nuts make a great trail mix. You can also add fresh cherries to desserts and pastries. For a more savory dish, make barbecue sauce or salsa with cherries. It is easy to experiment with new recipes with the fruit.
Full of Nutrients
Cherries are loaded with fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. A cup of cherries has less than 100 calories and lots of Vitamin C, which is good for skin and your immune system. The fiber in cherries helps promote a healthy digestive system and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in your body.
There have been a few recent studies conducted on the effect of cherries on sleep. The fruit is known to contain melatonin, which naturally regulates your sleeping cycle. In the study, patients with insomnia were given concentrated cherry juice before bed. After the study was completed, many participants reported falling asleep faster and staying asleep for longer after drinking the juice. By adding more cherries to your diet, you may be able to achieve the same results.
Good for Your Heart
Studies have shown that diets rich in fruits are good for your heart; overall, your risk for heart disease decreases if you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Cherries are rich in potassium, which helps prevent strokes. They also contain polyphenols, which reduce cellular damage in your heart tissue.
Assist in Exercise Recovery
As you exercise, your muscles develop tiny tears; this is why you are often sore after a hard workout. Cherries contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce pain after physical activity. There are several products containing cherries that are given to athletes to help them recover and get back to peak performance. Tart cherries work best for athletes, but sweet cherry is also beneficial.
The next time you are at the grocery store, consider picking up some cherries. These tiny fruits are tasty and have many health benefits. Follow these tips from Gabriel Patterson to help easily incorporate cherries into your daily diet.
Have you ever wondered why you still have hemorrhoids or constipation or even can’t eliminate your faeces completely even after consuming fruits, vegetables and drinking lots of plain water? There is a physiological reason and it probably is more common in the elderly and those who lead sedentary lifestyles, mostly not by choice. Who wouldn’t want to lead healthier lives moving about?
What is constipation? What are Hemorrhoids?
According to webmd, constipation means that your bowel movements are impeded or occur less frequently, resulting in you having trouble excreting. It also goes on to mention that hemorrhoids or piles are swollen veins in the lowest part of the rectum and anus. They too might bleed if the strain exerted causes them to burst. This is usually caused by pressures such as lifting something heavy like what the bodybuilders do, or pushing/straining very hard during bowel movements in the toilet. The latter case is very common – especially for the elderly.
Why constipation or hemorrhoids occurs?
After some research at https://www.guidetogettingridofhemorrhoids.com/, we discovered that there is a physiological reason for this. If you look closely at the above picture which you are already looking more attentively, the colon has a natural kink that helps to maintain continence. In the normal upright sitting position, the puborectalis muscle is only partially relaxed to block the flow of faecal waste. This would mean that the puborectalis muscle is not fully relaxed when we are upright and this forces us to strain more if we are sitting on the toilet bowel. For some places where the toilet bowl is already on the ground and you are squatting, it is fully relaxed and you eliminate easily. This is the reason why some places or countries have less incidences of constipation. At our place here in the nursing home, most of the toilet bowls are the sitting type. In addition, the elderly are really old and you can’t expect them to squat. For those with weak legs, can they come back up and stand after squatting? I doubt so. They will call for help instead and we are not sure if their knees can take it. Its better we get them a squat stool instead.
Hence, it is imperative that you get a squat stool to properly eliminate all faeces when you go to the toilet. It also relieves the pressure and strain at the rectum and anus where you are less likely to get hemorrhoids also. Preventive measures is definitely more welcomed than consuming laxatives. Of course, laxatives are still required if the condition persists – waste materials and faeces are not really welcomed for an extended stay in the body!
Health Diet and Exercise are still a must!
Having mentioned all the above, you are still well advised to eat healthy. Consumption of vegetables and fruits are vital to ensure the overall well-being of the human body. Fruits that are high in fibre are also recommended. You do know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Fluid consumption is also a must. Consume plenty of water to ensure that urine and faeces can be moved efficiently during the bowel movement process. If you really want, you can consider taking prune or pineapple juice to help excrete better. The above are not intended to be medical treatment for any condition you might have and you are still well advised to see a medical professional.
(i) Hospitals Hospital Sultan Aminah – 20 to 25min Hospital Sultan Aminah – 20 to 25min The Sultanah Aminah Hospital is a government-funded multi-specialty hospital located in Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia. It is the largest hospital in Johor and the main referral and tertiary health centre for the state.
Hospital Permai – 20min Hospital Permai is equipped with 36 wards providing service, training and research in psychiatry.
Columbia Asia Hospital – 10min In the prosperous state of Johor at the southern tip of Malaysia, lies Columbia Asia Hospital – Iskandar Puteri. It opened in 2010 and is the company’s first multi-specialty medical facility. This multi-disciplinary specialist hospital caters to residents of new townships in Johor Bahru such as Nusa Idaman, Horizon Hills, Educity, SiLC and Ledang. A 10-minute drive from Johor Bahru city center also Singapore, Iskandar Puteri is a flagship zone of the Iskandar Development Region in southern Johor.
Gleneagles Medini Hospital – 10min The Gleneagles Medini Hospital will features 300-beds and a 162-suite medical office block. The hospital is developed by Parkway Pantai Group in close partnership with Global Capital & Development.
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus – the same virus that also causes chicken pox. Anyone who has had chicken pox in the past may develop shingles and this is particularly pronounced as you get older. The virus does not go completely after you have had chickenpox. Some virus particles remain latent in the nerve roots next to your spinal cord. Some cases of shingles then appear for no apparent reason where the virus multiplies and travel along the nerve to the skin to cause shingles. In other cases, a period of lower immunity such as stress or illness can also trigger an episode of shingles. After the age of fifty, it becomes increasingly common to get shingles, probably due to the lower immunity as we age. Although it is uncommon to have it more than once, some people do experience it.
The most commonly involved nerves that cause shingles are those below the skin of the chest or tummy (abdomen). The upper face (including the eye) is also a common site. The back areas behind the body are also possible. The pain can range from mild to severe and can include constant dull, burning or gnawing pain. Acute and stabbing pains might also come and go. Itchy blisters will then develop after the rash. The blister will normally dry up, form scabs and gradually fade away. Slight scarring is possible after this ends. The whole duration usually lasts two to four weeks. Feeling feverish (running a temperature) and feeling weak is also commonly experienced during this episode.
You cannot contract shingles from someone who has shingles. However, you can get chicken pox from someone who has shingles if you have not had an immunization for chicken pox, contracted chicken pox before in the past or exhibit poor immunity. The shingles rash is highly contagious and it would be good if you can exercise responsibility whereby you try not to come in contact with young children (who might not be immunized) or weaker elderly persons if you have shingles.
Post-herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication where the nerve pain (neuralgia) of shingles persists after the rash is gone. It is a nerve pain that continues for three months or more due to damage caused by Shingles. Alternatively, if the pain goes away and returns at a later date, this is also called PHN. The problem is not so common in people with ages under fifty but for those over the age of sixty, one in five will have PHN that lasts more than a month.
Ways to alleviate the pain include wearing loose clothing to reduce irritation of the affected skin areas. Taking frequent cool baths or icing of the affected areas might also help. Taking common painkillers such as paracetamol are unlikely to help much. Hence, seeing a physician and getting the right medication is vital. They normally will prescribe an antidepressant medicine in the tricyclic group. In this case, it is not used to treat depression. Tricyclic antidepressants ease nerve pain (neuralgia) separately to their action on depression. However, amitriptyline is the one commonly used for nerve pain. Pain is stopped, or greatly eased, in up to 8 in 10 cases of PHN treated with amitriptyline. Tricyclic antidepressants sometimes cause drowsiness. This often eases in time. To try to avoid drowsiness, a low dose is usually started at first and then built up gradually if needed. It is also usually taken at night. A dry mouth is another common side-effect. Frequent sips of water may help with this. Please visit a qualified physician or doctor to ensure you have the right advice given your current medical condition.
Cholesterol is a molecule that was first discovered in 1769. Unfortunately, in the 250 years since, it has become the number one misunderstood nutrient in the body. As it was found to be a major component of arterial plague, cholesterol was instantly deemed harmful for the human body. Overnight, western medical publications released articles mentioning that your vital health signs are inversely related to the level of cholesterol in your body. In fact, scientific research has shown that arterial plague is actually the body’s way of healing inflamed injured tissues. This logic of lowering cholesterol levels is akin to reducing the number of fire brigades in order to decrease the number of fires. Does this even make sense given that fire engines and fire trucks are always found at the scene where the fire took place?
Cholesterol is so vital to human health that almost every human cell in the body is constantly producing it. Although most of it is made in the liver, the human brain is where it is needed most. Even though the brain only makes up 2% of body weight, it contains 25% of all the body’s cholesterol and 60% of brain mass is purely fat. DHA, a type of omega-3 fat, makes up around 15-20% of your brain’s cerebral cortex. The brain neurons – the “wires” of your brain and central nervous system, contain high levels of DHA to aid in structural support of the entire human body. One of the primary uses of cholesterol is that it is needed to synthesize various hormones and neurotransmitters which the brain cells use to communicate with each other. Hence, without an acceptable level of cholesterol, the brain cells will die off eventually. Some researchers have actually postulated and published articles mentioning that cholesterol exhibits antioxidant abilities that protect the body against cancer. It also helps in the production of Vitamin D and maintains cell structure integrities to prevent them from becoming porous. Porous cell membranes are logically more susceptible to damage and foreign pathogens.
In the current age of abundance, lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and other heart diseases are taking centre stage where the food we take are either too much or too rich. Without moderation and control, high cholesterol levels are seen in increasingly younger patients. This has led to widespread prescription of cholesterol lowering statins such as the generic Zocor(Simvastatin). It is unsurprising to note that with millions of people under such prescriptions, rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s are on the rise. A study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy in 2009 found that three out of four people using these drugs experienced adverse cognitive effects ‘probably or definitely related to’ the drug. It also mentioned that there were patients who experienced cognitive improvements after stopping statin therapy. In fact, since Feb 2012, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) ordered drug pharma companies to add a new warning label about possible memory problems to the prescribing information for statins.
Another research study published in the journal Neurology found that high levels of cholesterol actually reduces the risk of dementia in the elderly. “High cholesterol levels in late life was actually associated with decreased dementia risk, which is in contrast to previous research suggesting high cholesterol in mid-life is a risk factor the onset of dementia in late life,” conclude the study’s authors. “The contradictory results may be explained by the timing of the cholesterol measurements in relationship to age and the clinical onset of dementia.” The research was a joint venture of the Center on Aging and Health, the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers, the Department of Mental Health, The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, and others.
There are many other studies augmenting the premise of this research and the message is very clear. There is possibly very minimal advantage in taking statin drugs if you are over the age of 65. The primary purpose of statins is to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and the very reason statins help is because of the drug’s anti-inflammatory effects. Regrettably, statins reduces the production of CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10), which is the number one important nutrient when it comes to the vascular system’s integrity. Perhaps it is better to talk to your physician or doctor to discuss ways and methods to reduce statin consumption. As always, moderation is key and that includes the consumption of your medications.