Building on research into the connection between dementia, inflammation, and bacteria in our digestive systems, Chinese officials awarded conditional approval to a seaweed-based drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
The approval of the seaweed drug, called Oligomannate, however, was preliminary. While officials allowed the drug to be marketed in China, they warned that it could be pulled during continuing safety trials.
The team behind the new drug, led by Geng Meiyu at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said they were inspired to look into seaweed due to the relatively low incidence of Alzheimer’s among people who consume it regularly.
In a paper in the journal, Cell Research, Geng’s team described how a sugar contained within seaweed suppresses certain bacteria contained in the gut which can cause neural degeneration and inflammation of the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s.
This mechanism was confirmed during a clinical trial carried out by Green Valley, a Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company that will be bringing the new drug to the market.
Conducted on 818 patients, the trial found that Oligomannate–which is derived from marine brown algae–can statistically improve cognitive function among people with Alzheimer’s in as little as four weeks, according to a statement from Green Valley.
“These results advance our understanding of the mechanisms that play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and imply that the gut microbiome is a valid target for the development of therapies.”– Philip Scheltens, Neurologist, Advisor to Green Valley, and Head of Alzheimer Center Amsterdam
Oligomannate, distributed by Green Valley Pharmaceuticals, is not approved for distribution in the United States. In a press release, the company said it would launch its drug “very soon” in China and said it planned to start a global phase 3 clinical trial early next year with sites in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
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