New Scientific Paper Documents Decades of Failure in the Use of Live Animals for Alzheimer's Disease Research

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE May 16, 2014
New Scientific Paper Documents Decades of Failure in the Use of Live Animals for Alzheimer's Disease Research

Researchers Say Animal Experiments Should Be Replaced with Human-Based Technologies and Prevention to Fight Devastating Disease

WASHINGTON—One of the most ill-understood and overwhelming diseases is in dire need of new research and prevention strategies, according to a new scientific paper published in the journal ALTEX. Written by researchers with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the paper summarizes Alzheimer’s disease research efforts, emphasizing the shortfall of animal experiments in addressing the human disease and urging a shift to effective research focusing on relevant human biology and prevention.

“Decades of animal experiments have been ineffective in understanding Alzheimer’s disease, and patients and their families are left with no meaningful treatment options,” says Sarah Cavanaugh, Ph.D., medical research specialist for the Physicians Committee. “We desperately need new and effective methods for prevention, detection, and treatment. Switching to research that addresses human biology may very well be the key, and it holds the potential to even ultimately prevent or cure this debilitating disease.”

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee, and Neal Barnard, M.D., of the George Washington University School of Medicine and the Physicians Committee, also co-authored the new paper, “Animal models of Alzheimer disease: historical pitfalls and a path forward.”

More than 36 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, and the number is expected to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease is the primary dementia cause in the middle-aged and elderly. The disease is debilitating and ultimately fatal. Several decades worth of animal experiments, primarily in transgenic rodents, has not translated into meaningful treatments or benefits for human patients because the research is unreliable and not relevant to human biology. Today, Alzheimer’s disease remains difficult to diagnose and is ultimately incurable, with few treatment strategies for disease management.

The paper details current standards for diagnosis, limited treatment options, and potential prevention measures. It also provides a strategy for shifting Alzheimer’s disease research focus from use of live animals to human biology in order to apply research findings to this human disease and speed development of ways to prevent, detect, treat, and possibly cure Alzheimer’s disease.

In its recently updated National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls for increased clinical trial enrollment and expanded research to identify biomarkers, genetic risk factors, and pharmaceutical and lifestyle interventions. While its inclusion of prevention and intervention is a step in the right direction, only a small fraction of federal Alzheimer’s disease research dollars actually fund these studies. With the growing rate of Alzheimer’s disease, it is essential that researchers establish both preventive measures and successful treatments, the paper’s authors contend.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

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