As methodology improves, the new tracer UCB-J reliably flags synapse loss in Alzheimer’s cortex, reported scientists at the Human Amyloid Imaging conference in Miami. Other speakers correlated UCB-J uptake with amyloid and tau PET and cognitive decline, strengthening the case for its use as an AD biomarker. The tracer also picks up dramatic synapse loss in frontotemporal dementia and progressive supranuclear palsy, and modest declines in early Parkinson’s disease.
Following up on its October surprise, Biogen showed more data at the Clinical Trials in Alzheimer’s Disease conference, arguing that disparities in drug exposure explained the puzzlingly different outcomes in its one positive and one negative aborted Phase 3 trials. Audience members were put off by the messiness of the data set and not fully convinced by the analysis, but the majority said they believed the general signal that the antibody may slow disease progression. The prevailing mood was one of hopefulness, with most agreeing the results validate the amyloid hypothesis and suggest that effective treatments for AD are within reach.
Organized around 10 major themes, this year’s annual meeting attracted almost 23,000 scientists. Sessions in the Neurodegenerative Disorders and Injury theme drew the largest crowd, featuring more than 2,700 of SfN’s total 14,000-plus presentations. Aβ, tau, and other protein pathologies dominated, but there was a renewed emphasis on gene therapy for neurological disorders. Tom Fagan brings you some highlights.
On July 13, the day before the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference started in Los Angeles, 263 DIAN participants and their partners met in the same location with scientists, clinicians, research funders, and representatives of the association for a pre-meeting. They celebrated a shared commitment to use the scientific opportunities inherent in dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease toward a better understanding and clinical trials to prevent the disease. Four stories in this series showcase the resilience of DIAN participants, progress in AD genetics, a first look at emerging RNA-based therapies, and an update on DIAN clinical trials.
Research presented at this year’s AAIC reflected an influx of new money into the field and, with it, a growing diversity of topics. There was new interest in government policy, NIA funding priorities, and underrepresented minorities, along with an even greater emphasis on lifestyle factors and technologies to lessen the impact of a dementia epidemic forecast by demographic change. No large clinical trials presented major data, while a session picking over the ruins of recent BACE inhibitor trials showcased some transparency and shared willingness among pharma companies to learn from failure. Genetics posted news, as did biomarkers, especially blood tests, and much effort being poured into preparing observational cohorts for prevention trials was evident. Imaging continues to light up the field, debuting a new amyloid staging system and offering head-to-head comparisons of tau ligands. Specific tracers for neuroinflammation and other proteinopathies are still out of reach.