China has approved a seaweed-based drug called Oligomannate for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s the first new treatment for the disorder in 17 years, and it’s just been approved by China’s drug safety agency to go on sale during continued clinical trials.
Researchers were inspired to test the seaweed drug when they discovered elderly people that regularly eat seaweed are less likely to develop the condition.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common type of dementia associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning, and can affect memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities.
The exact cause of the disease is not yet fully understood, and no cure has yet been discovered. The only treatments available are medicines designed to relieve some of the symptoms.
In 1997, a Chinese research team led by Dr Geng Meiyu started looking into possible connections between seaweed and Alzheimer’s. The team spent two decades researching seaweed, identifying a unique sugar that could help calm symptoms.
As described in a paper published by the journal Cell Research, the particular sugar in seaweed suppresses certain bacteria contained in the gut. This could lead to inflammation of the brain and neural degeneration.
The first trials of the drug were carried out on 818 patients, proving the new drug can improve cognitive function for Alzheimer’s in four weeks.
Lu Songtao, president of pharmaceutical company Green Valley, which is producing the drug, believes it will be available for the Chinese market by the end of the year, according to the South China Morning Post.
He also hopes the drug will become available in the global markets in the near future.
Doctors have been quick to point out the Oligomannate drug would not cure brains that had deteriorated to a severe condition, but it will certainly be able to help sufferers that have been recently diagnosed.
Matt Weston is a lover of electric cars, artificial intelligence and space. From Cornwall, he’s a UCLan graduate that still dreams of being a Formula One driver in the very near future. Previously work includes reporting for regional newspapers and freelance video for the International Business Times.