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Sutter Memory Clinic Study Shows IVIG Could Be Key to Alzheimer's Cure

In a Sutter Institute of Medical Research study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, the blood product intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was found to reduce brain atrophy and cognitive decline in patients in the early, predementia phase of Alzheimer's disease.

IVIG, extracted from the plasma of more than 1,000 blood donors, contains antibodies to amyloid, an abnormal brain protein found in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Sutter Institute of Medical Research, in partnership with Sutter Neuroscience Institute and Sutter Neuroradiology, designed the study to investigate if a course of IVIG could have practical, disease-modifying effects on Alzheimer's disease when administered during the predementia phase. The study showed promising results during the first year after treatment in the form of reduced brain atrophy as well as reduced conversions to Alzheimer's disease dementia at one year, compared with a placebo group.

"This research shows some evidence that IVIG could prevent brain atrophy and delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease in patients who are in the beginning stages," says Shawn Kile, MD, Sutter Neuroscience Institute neurologist, comedical director of the groundbreaking Sutter Memory Clinic and principal investigator of the IVIG study. "My hope is that our study will lead to additional investigations of this treatment strategy so we can eventually conquer this devastating disease."

This randomized, double-blinded trial administered from 2011 to 2013 included 50 patients 50 to 84 years old who were referred to Sutter Neuroscience Institute and its specialized Sutter Memory Clinic in Sacramento. Participants were diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's disease. The participants were administered either IVIG or saline solutions every two weeks for a total of five infusions.

Brain imaging was conducted at baseline, at 12 months and again at 24 months. The images at 12 months for those who received the IVIG doses showed less brain atrophy than those who were given the placebo. In addition, cognitive testing showed better results and there we less conversions to dementia after 12 months for those who received IVIG. These differences in the treatment groups faded by 24 months. Kile and colleagues propose that annual infusions of IVIG may be necessary to sustain treatment effects, but additional research will be necessary to prove this.

"There has been no new medical treatment to combat Alzheimer's disease over the last 10 years," says William Au, MD, a renowned neurologist and expert in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and codirector of the Sutter Memory Clinic. "This study of IVIG in mild cognitive impairment may be the beginning of research that could hold the key to finding a cure for this terrible illness."

Source: Sutter Health