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New Molecular Approach

Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) is an important naturally occurring molecule that can help ameliorate the membrane and energy changes seen in AD.  ALCAR has been repeatedly demonstrated to have few and only minimal side effects.  Mild gastrointestinal symptoms may occur in some individuals, these include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.ALCAR contains carnitine and acetyl moieties, both of which have neurobiological properties.  ALCAR is reported to affect brain energy and phospholipid metabolism, to interact with cell membranes, proteins, and enzymes, and to have nerve growth factor-like properties (for review see Pettegrew et al., 2000b).

Pettegrew et al., (1995b) conducted a 31P-MRS double-blind, placebo-controlled study of ALCAR in 12 patients with probable AD.  Cognitive test scores of the placebo group deteriorated significantly at 6 and 12 months whereas cognitive scores of the ALCAR treated group did not significantly change demonstrating ALCAR slowed the clinical progression of AD.  Subjects receiving ALCAR demonstrated improvement in brain measures of membrane phospholipid and high-energy phosphate metabolism linking improvement in cognition with improvement in these metabolic pathways.  This was the first and still the only report in the literature that demonstrates a therapeutic agent (ALCAR) can alter both the clinical course and brain molecular changes in AD.