A NEW drug has been found that reverses Alzheimer’s disease in mice, with scientists hoping it may one day work for human patients, it was announced yesterday.
Use of the drug in experimental therapy restored memory in a number of lab animals after their brains had been ravaged by the brain disease, which causes dementia.
Researchers said the results “showed promise”, with the new drug working by targeting the cause as well as the symptoms – removing toxic proteins that clump together and trigger the devastating illness.
A key characteristic of Alzheimer’s is the development of abnormal clusters of proteins called amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibres in the brain.
These changes cause inflammation and damage to the neurons leading to memory loss, confusion and dementia.
But the new drug, known as NTRX-07, appears to decrease such inflammation while preserving neurons and regenerative cells in the brain.
“NTRX-07 uses a different mechanism than many other Alzheimer’s drugs currently available, as it targets the cause of the disease, not just the symptoms.”
His team discovered NTRX -07’s memory-restoring abilities while studying the drug’s potential to treat a complex, chronic pain condition called neuropathic pain.
Prof Naguib explained: “Patients who have neuropathic pain have chronic neuroinflammation. This is a compound that blunts that inflammation.”
Developing a drug to successfully treat Alzheimer’s is one of the great challenges for modern medici
The new research was welcomed by UK research bodies.
Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at the Alzheimer’s Society said: “Inflammation and the role that the immune system plays in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease is a hot topic in dementia research at the moment. We know damaged proteins are involved in causing the disease, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that how our immune system reacts to these proteins is important as well.
“This research is in the very early stages but it’s encouraging to see drugs being developed that can block harmful inflammatory responses in the brain. Every new drug has to go through a number of research steps to ensure it’s beneficial for people so it’s vital that funding is made available to support research like this. For now, it’s too soon to tell whether this drug will work for people living with dementia.”
They found inflammation produced in response to the disease caused changes in the brain’s microglia cells – immune cells that typically remove the dangerous amyloid plaques.
As the proteins accumulated in the mice the microglia were unable to remove them, leading to inflammation and damage to nerve cells which reduced cognitive ability.
Microglia cells have receptors on the surface which when activated can produce an anti-inflammatory response.
The drug targets these receptors, which leads to decreased inflammation and prevents damage to the brain tissue.
It also boosted removal of abnormal amyloid plaques and improved memory performance and other mental skills.
The drug further increased levels of a protein called SOX2, which has been shown to help new neurons develop and protect the brain in people with Alzheimer’s.
NTRX-07 may reduce inflammation in the brain
The brain of an Alzheimer’s patient shows significant signs of shrinking compared to a normal brain.
Dementia is a gradual decline of how the brain functions. It is incurable, and slowly interferes with a person’s ability to carry out the normal tasks of daily living.
It can also trigger other mental health problems such as personality changes, anxiety, mood swings and depression. In more advanced dementia, the person may lose the ability to get up and move, or the interest to eat or drink.
The new drug was unveiled at the Anesthesiology annual meeting in Chicago, which is organised by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Further research on its effects will now be carried out in the future.
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