VUmc explores the underlying mechanism of a medical nutrition drink in early Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by key pathological hallmarks including loss of synapses. Synapses are the connections between neurons that allow communication between brain cells and make creating and recalling memories possible. These connections are affected early in the disease process, even before people are diagnosed with dementia.

Recently a study protocol of the VUmc (VU University medical center, Amsterdam The Netherlands), entitled NL-ENIGMA, was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions. This paper describes the NL-ENIGMA study , aiming to investigate whether a medical nutrition drink can affect a measure of synapse function after 24 weeks in 40 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia, both with evidence of AD pathology.

The VUmc will assess the effects of this medical nutrition drink on cerebral glucose uptake in the brain, through FDG-PET scan analysis. This method  is used in the field as a marker of synapse function and density – De Wilde et al., 2011 . This may provide additional evidence on the mode of action underlying the previously observed effects of this medical nutrition drink on memory in early AD. Previous studies – Scheltens et al., 2010; 2012; Cummings et al., 2017De Waal et al., 2014 & Olde-Rikkert  et al., 2015 – have shown that administering this medical nutrition drink has positive effects in patients with early AD and is safe and well tolerated.

A positive result from this new study would demonstrate that this medical nutrition drink increases glucose uptake in the brain of patients with MCI or early dementia with evidence of AD pathology, which would be a further evidence for its hypothesized mode of action.  New studies like NL-ENIGMA add to and provide further evidence of the relevance of targeting synaptic dysfunction as a strategy in early AD.

The VUmc Alzheimer center was awarded with an NWO grant for the NL-ENIGMA study in 2013. NWO is the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research that ensures quality and innovation in science and facilitates its impact on society. Funds are allocated by means of a national competition on the basis of quality and independent assessment and selection procedures.