PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Every year, Alzheimer’s disease robs thousands of Americans of their memories, their abilities, their lives. There’s no cure, and only a handful of ways to treat it.

But researchers now are working on a way to potentially stop the disease before it starts.

For people with Alzheimer’s, pills and patches to slow the progression are the only options.

“Unfortunately, most of the treatments that have been tried have not stopped or even substantially delayed the progression,” says Carol Schramke, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Allegheny General Hospital.

But what if there was a way to keep the disease from developing? Research points to an intravenous possibility. It’s called IVIG.

IVIG is intravenous immunoglobulin. It’s a blood product, an immune system product, essentially a solution of antibodies given intravenously.

It’s thought to block the protein that tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study, 50 patients, ages 50 to 84, at risk for the illness got either IVIG or saline solution every two weeks. Those who received IVIG showed less brain shrinkage and did better on memory and thinking tests up to a year later.

“It only helps for a limited amount of time, and so you have to keep treating people over and over again,” says Schramke.

At two years, though, the effect faded.

“The main downside is that it’s very, very expensive,” Schramke said. “If it is a very small effect, is that where you want to put your resources?

At this point, the study findings have to be duplicated, and the appropriate dose and frequency have to be worked out.

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Dr. Maria Simbra