Using saliva and ibuprofen to head off Alzheimer’s 

 A team of neuroscientists believe they have found an easy test to determine if you are likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease—and an inexpensive way to prevent its development, if it’s caught early. The test involves checking a teaspoonful of your saliva for the levels of a certain protein. If the levels are too high, the treatment is low doses of ibuprofen, i.e. Advil, Motrin, or your favorite generic brand. 

The research was done in Vancouver, British Columbia, by a team from Aurin Biotech. President and CEO Dr. Patrick McGeer and his wife, Dr. Edith McGeer, led the effort. 

The McGeers are considered to be two of the top neuroscientists in the field. Their lab is respected worldwide for more than thirty years of research into Alzheimer’s and other diseases that involve neurological inflammation and degeneration. 

The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently published a research paper detailing Dr. Patrick McGeer’s most recent discoveries. The study states that the McGeer team has invented a simple saliva test that can diagnose the disease and predict its future development long before actual symptoms appear. 

The test measures the level of Abeta 42, a peptide amyloid beta protein known to be the main component of the plaque that destroys brain cells in Alzheimer’s victims. Now, all of us have naturally produced Abeta 42 in our bodies. Most of us produce Abeta 42 at nearly identical rates, no matter our age or gender. But, the McGeer team has reportedly discovered that some people produce Abeta 42 at rates two to three times faster than normal; those unfortunate folks are destined for Alzheimer’s, according to the study. 

Abeta 42 is a nearly insoluble substance that is produced throughout our bodies but turns into plaque deposits only in the brain. In Alzheimer’s, the plaque builds up and creates a cerebral inflammation. The inflammation spreads, destroying the patient’s brain cells. This continues until the victim dies. 

McGeer said his research indicates that regular consumption of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen could prevent the inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease. “In 1990, we wrote a short report for Lancet indicating a substantial sparing of AD in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. We suggested that anti-inflammatory therapy might be the explanation. We chose rheumatoid arthritis for the study since it typically commences at an earlier age than AD and is universally treated with anti-inflammatory agents. Our report of AD sparing in patients consuming anti-inflammatory agents was soon confirmed n 17 epidemiological studies. There was one consistent caveat in these studies. The NSAIDs needed to have been started at least 6 months, and preferably as long as 5 years, before the clinical diagnosis of AD.” 

There is no evidence that NSAID’s can stop Alzheimer’s once it has begun. 

“What we’ve learned through our research is that people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s exhibit the same elevated Abeta 42 levels as people who already have it; moreover, they exhibit those elevated levels throughout their lifetime so, theoretically, they could get tested anytime,” says Dr. McGeer. “Knowing that the prevalence of clinical Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) commences at age 65, we recommend that people get tested ten years before, at age 55, when the onset of Alzheimer’s would typically begin. If they exhibit elevated Abeta 42 levels then, that is the time to begin taking daily ibuprofen to ward off the disease. 

“Unfortunately, most clinical trials to date have focused on patients whose cognitive deficits are already mild to severe, and when the therapeutic opportunities in this late stage of the disease are minimal. Consequently, every therapeutic trial has failed to arrest the disease’s progression. Our discovery is a game changer. We now have a simple test that can indicate if a person is fated to develop Alzheimer’s disease long before it begins to develop. Individuals can prevent that from happening through a simple solution that requires no prescription or visit to a doctor. This is a true breakthrough since it points in a direction where AD can eventually be eliminated.” 

About the author

Dave Segal

Dave Segal

Dave Segal, a Detroit native, has been a journalist since 1977. He has worked as a reporter, commentator, and news director at radio stations in Detroit, Denver, and Montrose.

Dave has been writing and editing for the Monitor since its first print issue in 2003. He is editor and senior writer for the digital magazine. On the side, Dave has also done freelance writing, media relations, and a variety of volunteer work.