‘We’re fighting hard:’ Research on treatment for Alzheimer’s, brain injuries lands UNCP first patent

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PEMBROKE AREA, NC (WBTW) — There’s new, cutting edge research being done in the fight against neurological issues, including Alzheimer’s Disease, happening at a local university.

Research by William C. Friday Professor at UNCP Dr. Ben Bahr and his team at the Biotechnology Center landed the university its first ever patent recently. The research explores a new method of treatment for Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury patients.

“The patent is new drugs as well as combinations of natural products,” Dr. Bahr said. “We’ve actually looked at combinations of natural products with new drugs, that turn on these clearing mechanisms, to help clean up the pathogenic problems in the brain and slow down your direction toward dementia.”

Dr. Bahr says changes in the brain from sports or blast injuries show parallels to Alzheimer’s. The goal of the research is to slow down the harmful processes and even improve brain function.

“Most treatments and patents for Alzheimer’s Disease are drugs that block something,” Dr. Bahr said. “They block a mechanism that is forming some bad material in the brain. Our patent talks about drugs that increase a mechanism…to stimulate enzymes that help degrade the bad material that accumulates with age and traumatic brain injury.”

Alzheimer’s can be tough to treat and it’s slow to develop.

“People should be screened when they get to 60, 65 for memory problems,” Lumberton neurologist Doctor Indravadan Gatiwala said. “Hopefully some cure will be available in the future. The earlier you make the diagnosis, you can  preserve your memory function for a longer period of time.”

Doctor Gatiwala says the disease is prevalent in our area. Across the country, it’s estimated to affect nearly six million people.

“Alzheimer’s Disease is scary. Everyone’s getting old and age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Bahr said. “But people should understand that scientists are leaving no stone unturned. We’re a small university but we’re fighting hard for this problem.”

Dr. Bahr hopes the patent will open the doors for UNCP to work with some of the state’s major bio-tech companies. It would take investments to get the treatment method into the clinical trial phase. Dr. Bahr is presenting his findings in publications and virtual conferences.

He hopes to travel to Chicago next year to present it at a conference there, too.

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