A cutting-edge startup is working on a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by altering the concentration of plasma proteins in patients. This work is based on previous research from Stanford University indicating that cognitive decline in mice can be reversed through injections of blood taken from younger mice.
“Alkahest recently announced the initiation of a Phase 2 trial of its proprietary human plasma fraction, GRF6021, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease with associated mild cognitive impairment or dementia,” Steven Braithwaite, Chief Scientific Officer at Alkahest, told Digital Trends. “As humans age, there is change in the makeup of the proteins in plasma. Some of the key, function-driving plasma proteins increase or decrease with time. At Alkahest, we have termed these changing proteins ‘chronokines.’”
It is the loss of these beneficial chronokine proteins which are implicated with the onset of various age-related diseases through the reduction of regenerative properties that preserve biological functions. In previous studies, the human plasma fraction, GRF6021, has been shown to enhance neurogenesis, improve learning and memory, slow cognitive decline, reduce inflammation, and preserve cell health in animal models.
In Alkahest’s new trial, 90 Parkinson’s patients, mostly in their 70s and 80s, will receive multiple injections containing GRF6021. This plasma fraction is extracted from blood taken from blood banks, with an average donor age of 32. Over the course of the study, the participants will be tested for signs of improved memory, attention, language skills, and more.
“We believe that GRF6021’s unique properties grants the candidate a potential mechanistic advantage over currently available and clinical-stage therapies, whose mode of action typically targets one symptom of disease — and for the most part are ineffective at addressing the complex root causes of disease and aging,” Braithwaite continued.
After the completion of this trial in 2020, Alkahest next plans to advance GRF6021 into larger Phase 3 trials. The company has also carried out trials involving a second proprietary plasma protein fraction, GRF6019, in Alzheimer’s patients.
“In preclinical trials, both products reversed age and disease-related cognitive decline,” Karoly Nikolich, CEO of Alkahest, told us. “We are currently studying GRF6019 in an ongoing Phase 2 trial in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease patients. Based on the promise of what we have observed in earlier preclinical and clinical trials, Alkahest will also be initiating a Phase 2 trial in severe Alzheimer’s patients planned for initiation in the first half of 2019.”