Interviewer: Doctor, you're trained as a neonatal doctor. You deal with
infants a lot...
Dr. Newport: Right.
Interviewer: ...which is very different than treating Alzheimer's. What
kick-started you into thinking, "Okay, what we're trying here isn't
working? I've got to find something else."
Dr. Newport: Well, with Steve, we were actually trying to get him into a
clinical trial for Alzheimer's. There was one a couple years earlier called
Florizan that they were beginning a clinical trial and he didn't meet the
criteria because he had had a history of depression. But this time around,
that was not a criteria. There was a vaccine from [Elon] that was supposed
to help remove the beta amyloid plaque from the brain, which is believed to
either cause or contribute to Alzheimer's disease.
This seemed like a very promising study. Apparently the plaque would be
removed fairly quickly once you get this vaccine. So we tried to get him
into that study, and there's a test called the mini-mental status exam, a
30-point test, and he only got 12 points on the test. He needed at least 16
to qualify, and he had qualified in every other respect but that, so we
were fairly devastated at the time.
The physician said but we could come back in a couple weeks. He could try
again and see if he could qualify for the trial. So we scheduled an
appointment two weeks later, and then another clinical trial became
available, and this was an oral medication to help reduce amyloid plaque on
the brain. I scheduled these screenings for the clinical trials on back-to-
back days that I was off.
The night before the first screening I started thinking, "Well, what if he
gets accepted into both? He can't be in two clinical trials." So I got on
the Internet and started looking at the risks and benefits of the two drugs
to help us decide which might be better for him to participate in and I
happened upon a press release, just purely by chance.
That included another treatment that at that time was called AC-1202 and
they had just named it (inaudible 00:02:15). It's now known as [axona], but
it was a medical food and they didn't really say what it was in the press
release. They did say that nearly half of the people with Alzheimer's who
were given this had improvement in memory.
So, this is not something you normally hear about Alzheimer's medications.
They basically say they slow down the course of the disease. They don't
improve memory, so I thought, "Well, this is very interesting, but what is
it?" So I continued to look on the Internet and I came across their patent
application on Free Patents Online.
It was about a 75-page long document and I learned a lot about Alzheimer's
and that whole aspect that I was not aware of with Alzheimer's disease that
there's a problem of insulin deficiency and insulin resistance in the
brain. Basically, this starts happening about ten to 20 years at least
before a person has symptoms of Alzheimer's. There's a problem with getting
glucose into the neurons and the neurons basically malfunction overtime and
There are billions of neurons, so apparently you can compensate for quite
some time until a certain number of them die off and then you won't be able
to compensate. You'll start having symptoms as you start losing certain
pathways in the brain. So, it's basically a problem getting energy into the
cells. The energy that we normally use for most of our cells most of the
time is glucose to fuel our cells.
In the U.S., we have a high carbohydrate diet. We're not starving so
glucose is our primary source of energy. But in this patent application,
one of the things that they made a point of was that during starvation you
switch over after 24 to 36 hours. After you use up the carbohydrate that
you have stored in your body, you switch over to using ketones as an
alternative fuel for the brain and other organs.
Ketones come from breakdown of fat, normally. You start breaking down fat
and some of your cells can use just your basic fatty acids. The heart and
muscles use fatty acids, but these longer chain fatty acids can't cross the
blood/brain barrier, so the brain doesn't have access to those. What
happens is the fatty acids are also converted in the liver to ketones, and
ketone bodies do cross the blood/brain barrier and can be used by cells as
an alternative fuel.
This company has the brilliant idea that if you could raise ketone levels
with something you consumed that this could potentially provide cognitive
improvement, that it would fuel the neurons. The neurons would function
better and you'd have improved cognition and memory and this type of thing
in somebody with Alzheimer's.
The food that they use is something called medium chain triglyceride oil. I
was familiar with that as a neonatologist because back in the late '70s and
early '80s we were using it with our premature newborns. We were adding it
to their formulas. Every feeding we'd give them medium chain triglyceride
oil because it was well-absorbed and it did help them grow.
Then, they started adding it to the formulas and making premature infant
formulas that are higher calorie than full-term baby formulas. So, the
medium chain triglyceride oil, when it's taken in when you eat it, it
doesn't require digestive enzymes. It's taken directly into the liver where
part of it's converted to ketones.
This is very unusual. It's the only food that I'm aware of with medium
chain triglycerides that are converted by liver to ketones. But, again,
they cross the blood/brain barrier to provide energy to the brain cells.
So, one time the patent application had mentioned that medium chain
triglyceride oil is extracted from coconut oil, that that's where these
come from and coconut oil is the richest source of medium chain
triglycerides. That's nearly 60% medium chain triglycerides.
Dr. Newport: So, I got from them an idea of something else that might be
available there to help Steve.