Hub researchers are testing a pill that could protect the brain against the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease — a treatment that could be the first to slow the progression of one of the nation’s most common killers, they say.

Alzheimer’s disease wreaks havoc on nerve cells in the brain until they cease to function, eventually causing death, said Dr. Robert Stern, Boston University’s principal investigator for the trial.

Boston University is one of 50 sites across the country conducting the Phase 2 clinical trial, which will study the effect of the experimental drug T-817MA on 450 Alzheimer’s patients over about 14 months.

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