Alzheimer's advance: Early stage study in mice show new drugs restore memory loss and prolong life

December 19, 2016, University of Leicester
Picture of nerve cells dying in the brain of prion-diseased mice. The nerves are stained pink and can be seen dying in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. Credit: University of Leicester

"We have treated mice with a new type of drug, and found that these drugs can not only improve symptoms of brain degeneration, such as cognitive decline, but can also extend the life-span of these terminally-sick mice. Our study opens up avenues for researchers to look at new drugs that treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's and also slow disease progression"- Professor Andrew Tobin

An international team of scientists has announced a new advance in the fight against Alzheimer's disease by identifying a new drug target for not only improving of brain degeneration - but also to extend the life-span of the terminally ill .

The four-year study by Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists based at the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The study was led by Professor Andrew Tobin alongside colleagues from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company and the Monash Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences in Australia. The project was also partly supported by the Wellcome Trust.

Corresponding author Professor Tobin, who alongside the lead researcher Dr Sophie Bradley has since moved from the University of Leicester to the University of Glasgow, said: "The paper describes drug-like molecules that can restore memory loss and slow progression of prion neurodegenerative disease in a manner that relates to the potential of these drugs in human Alzheimer's disease.

"We have been using mice whose brain cells are progressively dying, similar to what happens in Alzheimer's disease. This project focuses on a particular protein in the brain, which is proposed to be involved in Alzheimer's disease, and as such could be a potential target for new drugs.

"We have treated mice with a new class of drug, and found that these drugs can not only improve symptoms of brain degeneration, such as , but can also extend the life-span of these terminally-sick mice."

The researchers state that drugs which activate this protein receptor in the brain have previously been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease, and showed positive results with respect to improving cognition, but the patients experienced a large number of adverse side effects. This new class of drug is more selective and does not cause any side-effects when administered to mice in the study.

The study authors believe that this offers hope in the design of new drugs for improving cognition and extending life span.

Professor Tobin said: "This work may provide important information as to whether this protein is a viable target in the treatment of diseases associated with the progressive death of brain cells. This is of great importance to society, based on the fact that the treatment options for Alzheimer's disease are very limited - there are no cures for Alzheimer's disease and current treatments are focused on relieving some of the symptoms.

"What we have found is a novel class of drugs, called allosteric ligands, that target a protein called the M1 muscarinic receptor, which is present in the brain. Activating this receptor protein can not only improve cognitive function in mice with progressive brain degeneration, but when administered daily, can extend life span."

The scientists say the work is important because it focuses on identifying a treatment that not only improves symptoms associated with neurodegeneration, like current treatments, but also identifies a new strategy for slowing disease progression and extending life-span.

Professor Tobin said: "Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and it affects an estimated 850,000 people in the UK alone. There are no treatments that can slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer's, and patients are treated with drugs which temporarily mask the symptoms of the disease. Often these treatments are associated with side-effects which can limit patient compliance.

"I am proud to be involved in a collaboration with researchers across the world to address one of the world's major healthcare challenges. Our study opens up avenues for researchers to look at that treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's and also slow disease progression."

Explore further: Treatment approach used in cancer holds promise for Alzheimer's disease

Related Stories

Treatment approach used in cancer holds promise for Alzheimer's disease

October 21, 2016
Researchers have developed a novel treatment that could block the development of Alzheimer's disease using microscopic droplets of fat to carry drugs into the brain. This treatment approach, which is used to target drugs ...

Another failure in search for treatment to slow Alzheimer's

November 23, 2016
An experimental treatment for Alzheimer's failed again in a widely anticipated study, disappointing many who had hoped drugmaker Eli Lilly had finally found a way to slow the progression of the mind-robbing disease.

Alzheimer's detected before symptoms via new eye technology

July 11, 2016
Rockville, Md. Scientists may have overcome a major roadblock in the development of Alzheimer's therapies by creating a new technology to observe—in the back of the eye—progression of the disease before the onset of symptoms. ...

Experimental drug shows promise in treating Alzheimer's disease

October 25, 2016
An experimental drug shows promise in treating Alzheimer's disease by preventing inflammation and removing abnormal protein clumps in the brain that are associated with the disease, suggests a study in mice presented at the ...

Diabetes drug could influence brain activity in Alzheimer's

April 28, 2016
Researchers in Denmark have released findings from a small clinical trial of the diabetes drug liraglutide in people living with Alzheimer's disease.

Research points to new treatment strategy against Alzheimer's disease

September 7, 2016
New research suggests that Alzheimer's disease may trigger increased expression of an enzyme called lysozyme, which attempts to counteract amyloid build-up in the brain.

Recommended for you

Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

January 12, 2018
A new study suggests an association between elevated amyloid beta levels and the worsening of anxiety symptoms. The findings support the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric symptoms could represent the early manifestation of ...

One of the most promising drugs for Alzheimer's disease fails in clinical trials

January 11, 2018
To the roughly 400 clinical trials that have tested some experimental treatment for Alzheimer's disease and come up short, we can now add three more.

Different disease types associated with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains found in Alzheimer's patients

January 9, 2018
An international team of researchers has found different disease type associations with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains in the brains of dead Alzheimer's patients. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National ...

Advances in brain imaging settle debate over spread of key protein in Alzheimer's

January 5, 2018
Recent advances in brain imaging have enabled scientists to show for the first time that a key protein which causes nerve cell death spreads throughout the brain in Alzheimer's disease - and hence that blocking its spread ...

Molecular mechanism behind HIV-associated dementia revealed

January 5, 2018
For the first time, scientists have identified and inhibited a molecular process that can lead to neurodegeneration in patients with HIV, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in Nature Communications.

Mice with frequent flier miles advance the Alzheimer's cause

January 4, 2018
Alzheimer's disease wreaks emotional havoc on patients, who are robbed of their memories, their dignity, and their lives. It's financially devastating as well: care for Alzheimer's patients is predicted to top $1 trillion ...

0 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.