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ALZHEIMERS

Swiss firms team up to develop Alzheimer’s test

Swiss firms Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) and AC Immune, a biopharmaceutical company, announced on Wednesday a new partnership to develop an early Alzheimer's diagnostic test.

Swiss firms team up to develop Alzheimer's test
A Nestlé unit is teaming up with another Swiss firm on the Alzheimer's test. Photo: AFP

According to an AC Immune statement, the goal of the research collaboration is to develop a “minimally invasive diagnostic test to identify patients at very early stages.”
   
AC Immune's communications manager Eva Schier said the goal is to test for Alzheimer's by using a blood sample.
   
The sample could potentially show traces of neurofibrillary tangles, of which the chief component is a protein called Tau.

“Tau tangles” are one of the major indicators of Alzheimer's disease.
   
“It has been impossible to detect Tau in the blood,” Schier told AFP, adding that with the proper technology lab tests could help identify the initial biological signs of the disease.
   
Schier said that the research is still in its “very early” stages.
   
According to the statement, AC Immune will provide its “world leading expertise in the biology and pathology of Tau” as well as “laboratory capabilities.”
   
NIHS, a division of Vevey-based Nestlé, will for its part provide a “technology platform to the research program” to help identify Tau in blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
   
NIHS director Professor Ed Baetge said that the “overarching goal is to develop nutritional approaches and technologies that help people maintain or re-establish their cognitive vigour.”
   
A new case of Alzheimer's is diagnosed in the world every three seconds, and 46.8 million people were affected by the disease as of 2015.

Global patient numbers are expected to increase to 131.5 million by 2050, according to AC Immune.
   
Professor Andrea Pfeifer, CEO of AC Immune, says that early detection is “needed for the development of pharmaceutical as well as nutritional approaches.”
   
Schier says that the early detection should also benefit patients in other ways.
   
“The earlier you start treating patients (with Alzheimer's), the better it is,” she said.
   
“Usually, the patient goes to the doctor when they already have problems. In an ideal world one could treat patients who don't have symptoms yet.”
   
According to the statement, the new partnership is AC Immune's fourth involving the Tau protein.

Financial details of the collaboration with NIHS were not disclosed.

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SUICIDE

Brigitte Bardot’s ex commits suicide

Gunter Sachs, a German-born photographer and playboy has killed himself at age 78 in Switzerland.

Sachs, best known for his glamorous lifestyle and for marrying French icon Brigitte Bardot in the 60s, was found in his chalet in Gstaad, a glitzy alpine resort that is home to many VIPs and celebrities.

He was suffering from an incurable degenerative disease, thought to be Alzheimer’s, and died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to Swiss and international reports.

Sachs’ relatives released a suicide note to Swiss media in which he explained he took his life because of an illness he dubbed “A.”

“The loss of mental control over my life was an undignified condition, which I decided to counter decisively,” the letter signed by Sachs said. He called it the “no hope illness A,” Swiss news agency SDA reported.

Sachs gained fame for his work as an industrialist, film-maker and photographer, and for marrying Bardot in Las Vegas in 1966 in his second marriage. They got a divorce after three years and Sachs re-married. He had three children.

He lived for years in the Swiss village of St. Moritz, contributing to the resort’s exclusive image, and became a Swiss citizen in 1976, reports said. Later in his life, he developed a passion for astrological research, commissioning studies on the correlation of the stars and human behaviour.