Findings from the Merck research lab have just been published in a new study, and reveal a promising experimental treatment against Alzheimer's that could hit the market in a few years if all goes as hoped, and further clinical trials show it to be safe and effective, Scientific American reported. The new therapeutic outlined in the study would reduce levels of amyloid proteins, which create the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's disease accounts for a whopping 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases around the world, and its symptoms typically get worse over time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is no cure, and no current treatments can stop the disease from progressing to the point where it interferes with daily tasks, so any therapy that could slow it down would represent a huge advancement.

“It's a summary of the discovery and early-stage profiling of what we hope is going to be a new therapeutic for Alzheimer's,” research team leader Dr. Matthew Kennedy told Scientific American. “It represents well over a decade of investment in this project by many, many scientists."

Alzheimer's causes proteins in the brain to clump into plaques that damage the essential organ, which impacts cognitive abilities, especially memory. Scientists have been working for years to develop compounds that can stop or reverse the formation of these plaques.

The newly-developed compound is called verubecestat, and it works by reducing levels of beta amyloids proteins, which results in blocking an enzyme known as BACE1.

Researchers first examined the effects of verubecestat on a small 32-person sample. Currently, two broader clinical trials are underway with more than 3,000 subjects. The pair of “phase three” trials will conclude in July 2017.

“It's really the first molecule of its kind to combine [amyloid]-lowering potency with a very positive safety profile that allows us to treat patients for the time needed to determine if there will be clinical benefits on cognition,” Dr. Kennedy explained.

Source: Kennedy ME, Stamford AW, Chen X, Cox K, Cumming JN, Dockendorf MF, et al. The BACE1 inhibitor verubecestat (MK-8931) reduces CNS β-amyloid in animal models and in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Science Translational Medicine. 2016.

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