Sleep hormone 'may reduce dementia'
Monday 28 March 2011
Doctors are leading a new study into a drug which could improve the quality of life for people with dementia.
Glasgow-based medical research company CPS Research is heading a clinical trial using a drug containing the sleep hormone melatonin, which it is hoped will reduce the symptoms associated with the illness.
The team running the Melatonin in Alzheimer's Disease Project, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, are hoping to recruit 50 patients to take part in the study during a six-month period.
Any patient who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and is currently receiving treatment could be eligible to take part in the trial.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease but other conditions that affect the brain can also cause it.
Dr Gordon Crawford, of CPS Research, said: "Dementia is a shattering condition for patients, their families and friends. By reducing the symptoms of the illness, it is hoped that both patients and their carers can enjoy a better quality of life and manage the condition more effectively.
"In our groundwork for this project we investigated a slow-release version of the natural compound melatonin. Our findings suggested that the participants functioned better during the day - possibly due to a better quality sleep pattern."
He continued: "Melatonin does not currently exist as a treatment for dementia but is registered in Europe and the UK for use with elderly patients with sleeping difficulties. It has proven to be remarkably safe and virtually free from side effects. We are exploring whether its use as an add-on treatment for dementia could transform the lives of patients and their carers.
"With the help of volunteers from Scotland we aim to establish whether adding melatonin to current treatments could provide a major advance in dementia management."
The drug being used in the study is called Circadin.
Dr Alan Wade, of CPS Research, said: "What we do know is that patients who have Alzheimer's disease do not produce melatonin like healthy people. The study aims to see how adding melatonin affects them.
"There's a small study with melatonin that suggests there might be some benefit but it hasn't been studied in any detail. This will be the first time it has been studied in a reasonable number of patients.
"Unfortunately the study is based in the west of Scotland so only patients who could travel there easily would be suitable for the clinical trial."
Dr Wade said the clinical trial was now under way and recruitment had started for people to take part.
CPS Research is a company which works with GPs throughout central Scotland.
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