By Natasha Egan
Researchers in Western Australia are looking for older male volunteers with memory problems to take part in a study using testosterone and fish oil in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
With a $500,000 grant from the West Australian government, the Edith Cowan University (ECU) project will be the first to study the two treatments used together.
It will investigate if the combination can prevent or postpone the disease by reducing the protein beta amyloid, which has been identified as a possible cause of the disease.
The goal of the treatment is to get in early before any primary damage to brain cells has occurred, said grant recipient Professor Ralph Martins, who is Chair in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease at ECU.
“It is not going to be a magic bullet, but if we can reduce the beta amyloid protein by 10 or 15 per cent that would be excellent,” Prof Martins said.
There’s anecdotal evidence suggesting testosterone and fish oil can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, said Prof Martins, who is also director at the Perth-based McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Human studies have shown when testosterone levels have been reduced, there is more amyloid in the blood, and when testosterone is increased, there is a reduction in amyloid, he said.
In animals, testing has also shown that giving testosterone brings down amyloid levels. And similar tests with corresponding results have been done with fish oil, Prof Martins said.
However, this will be the first clinical trial in the world investigating both substances used together, he said.
The study is looking for 400 male volunteers from WA over the age of 60 who have experienced memory problems but have not been diagnosed with Alzeimer’s disease.
The trial will start in four weeks and last for 14 months.
Following an initial assessment, which involves psychological, blood and brain imaging tests, accepted participants will need to go into the Perth-based centre every 12 weeks for a testosterone injection and follow up tests.
Volunteers will be given fish oil capsules to be taken daily.
Prof Martins said he thinks the treatment would also benefit women, although the dose of testosterone would differ.
He would love to do such a study, but doesn’t have the funding to do it.
Prof Martin is also calling for more government funding and financial support to investigate the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and potentially successful treatments.
“We need to do the prevention trials if we’re going to have an impact on this disease,” Prof Martins said.
“We need to invest in these trials.”
To get involved in the trial or find out more, call the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation on 08 9347 4200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.