Dear Doctor - Beware new product for canine Alzheimer’s
Letter to Tufts Veterinarians
Q We have a 15-year-old bearded collie who began having Alzheimer’s-type symptoms about a year ago. He would pace all night long, and we were getting very little sleep. Our vet put him on a medication called Neutricks. It’s a once-a-day chewable. The nighttime pacing episodes stopped almost immediately, and the regimen has continued to work for nearly a year now. Do you have knowledge of this medication? The brochure that came with it said it is being tested for human use as well!
Dear Ms. Schor,
A We are glad your dog is no longer keeping you up at night. But we have serious doubts that the product you describe is doing the trick. We looked up Neutricks, and it is made from a protein in jellyfish. The website that peddles the product says “independent research and veterinarian testimonials have reported that Neutricks has positive benefits on animals with CDS [cognitive dysfunction syndrome].” We could not find any such research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and testimonials are merely anecdotal evidence. Would you take, say, a chemotherapy drug or other life-saving medicine because some people swear it works rather than because it was tested scientifically in gold-standard trials?
The lack of evidence for Neutricks is not surprising. The website says the product replaces a “calcium-binding protein” that animals stop producing as they age. But a single protein is not the answer to a complex disease like canine cognitive dysfunction, and it certainly could not be a drug. As soon as you eat a protein, it gets digested and rebuilt into other proteins that travel to various tissues throughout the body. It would not be possible for scientists to direct a particular protein from the mouth to cells in the brain, or anywhere else in the neurologic system. That simply isn’t how it works.
Promotional materials for the product say the discovery of the protein eventually led to the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It’s true that the three scientists who shared that prize discovered and developed something called the green fluorescent protein, which also comes from jellyfish. The protein is a bright, glowing green and can be used as a tagging tool to aid in monitoring cells in the body, including those nerve cells in the brain that become damaged during the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. But the scientists never said that the protein they discovered nor any other protein in jellyfish might be a remedy for Alzheimer’s.