High blood levels of homocysteine are a known risk factor for stroke and dementia but although homocysteine can be lowered by standard B vitamin supplements it is not yet known whether these can be used to treat or prevent dementia.
So far, the small studies on this effect have been disappointing.
However homocysteine research company Cobalz says that clinical trials starting in January could confirm that adding B vitamins to the powerful antioxidant N-acetylcysteine is superior to standard B vitamins in slowing the rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease patients.
Dementia already affects millions around the world and the threat is increasing with the growing numbers of elderly. Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, afflicts an estimated 4.5 million people in the US alone.
The condition is not only associated with homocysteine levels but also with 'free radicals' that oxidise and damage an enzyme that breaks down homocysteine.
Cobalz has found that adding a powerful antioxidant to B vitamins lowers homocysteine levels even further and results in prompt, striking and sustained clinical improvement in patients.
Cobalz claims that the glutathione precursor N-acetylcysteine (NAC)is not only a potent antioxidant but also a source of cysteine. Cysteine is required to generate hydrogen sulphide - an important neuromodulator and vasorelaxant. Levels of hydrogen sulphide levels are severely decreased in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.
Last week the firm signed a licensing agreement with US pharmaceutical firm Pamlab to produce the product scheduled for use in the trial by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Neil McCaddon, global head of licensing and corporate development at Cobalz, said: "We are very excited about the possibilities, and hope to announce some real breakthroughs for sufferers of dementia, and their carers."
The UK company is seeking other licensing and development partners for the rest of the global market.