An international team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, Lund University and the University of Groningen have discovered a neurostatin which they believe could lessen the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The drug, which targets the earliest stage in the reaction that leads to the death of cells in the brain, works in a comparable way to the statins that are used to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and is already an approved anti-cancer treatment.
So far, through experiments in test tubes and nematode worms which have been genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s, the drug known as bexoratene has been shown to delay the onset of the disease. Although it had no effect at all if the worms were already exhibiting the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, if it was given to the worms before they developed symptoms, there was no further evidence to suggest that they had developed the disease.
Researchers analysed the molecular process in hopes of reducing the toxicity of the process
The researchers analysed the way in which bexarotene works at a molecular level and found that it had the ability to stop the first step in the molecular process that leads to the death of cells in the brain. This occurs when naturally occurring proteins develop into structures known as amyloid fibrils, and smaller groups known as oligomers. Both of these are highly poisonous to nerve cells, and are believed to cause the damage exhibited in Alzheimer’s disease.
By developing a test to measure the rate of the process as a whole, and the rates of the sub-processes involved in the development of the disease, the team hoped to be able to reduce the toxicity of the process. They then went on to identify bexarotene as having the potential to interact with amyloid-beta, based on previous studies which had suggested that it could actually reverse the symptoms of the disease by clearing away amyloid-beta aggregates. However, by understanding how the disease develops in the brain, the researchers were now able to target bexarotene to the exact point in the process prior to the amyloid-beta forming.
This gives bexarotene the potential to be developed as a preventative drug, as it has the ability to inhibit the first step in the process of amyloid-beta aggregation, thus protecting the nerve cells from damage and death.
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