Discovery sheds light on why Alzheimer's meds rarely help

Current Alzheimer's drugs target the amyloid fibers (on right), which have a vastly different molecular structure than amyloid oligomers (on left), the likely culprit behind the disease. The UCLA findings may shed light on why existing Alzheimer's drugs produce limited effect. Credit: UCLA/Gao lab

New research reveals that the likely culprit behind Alzheimer's disease has a different molecular structure than current drugs' target—perhaps explaining why these medications produce little improvement in patients.

The Alzheimer's Association projects that the number of people living with Alzheimer's disease will soar from 5 million to 13.8 million by 2050 unless scientists develop new ways to stop the disease. Current medications do not treat Alzheimer's or stop it from progressing; they only temporarily lessen symptoms, such as and confusion.

Current Alzheimer's drugs aim to reduce the amyloid plaques—sticky deposits that build up in the brain—that are a visual trademark of the disease. The plaques are made of long fibers of a protein called Amyloid ?, or A?. Recent studies, however, suggest that the real culprit behind Alzheimer's may be small A? clumps called that appear in the brain years before plaques develop.

In unraveling oligomers' molecular structure, UCLA scientists discovered that A? has a vastly different organization in oligomers than in amyloid plaques. Their finding could shed light on why Alzheimer's drugs designed to seek out produce zero effect on oligomers.

The UCLA study suggests that recent experimental Alzheimer's drugs failed in clinical trials because they zero in on plaques and do not work on oligomers. Future studies on oligomers will help speed the development of specifically aiming at A? oligomers.

The study was published as Paper of the Week in the June 28 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Biological Chemistry.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Clue to cause of Alzheimer's dementia found in brain samples

Oct 22, 2012

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a key difference in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and those who are cognitively normal but still have brain plaques that characterize ...

Recommended for you

Improving the quality of dementia care

Nov 20, 2014

Healthcare workers and facilitators caring for persons suffering with dementia have expressed their satisfaction with new forms of mobile phone apps which are designed to assist support carers in residential homes to be more ...

Brain receptor cell could be new target for Alzheimer's

Nov 18, 2014

Blocking a key receptor in brain cells that is used by oxygen free radicals could play a major role in neutralizing the biological consequences of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Temple University.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.