Cancer Drug Could Protect against Alzheimer’s
Protein clumps that clog up the brain are at the root of the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s.
Now a paper published in Science Advances, reveals researchers have discovered that a drug called bexarotene, which is approved in the U.S. for the treatment of lymphoma, also targets primary nucleation, the first step in the chain reaction that causes the faulty protein clumps or amyloid protein plaques.
The team is not declaring that they have cured Alzheimer’s. But are certainly hypothesizing that the drug could reduce the risk of developing the disease by boosting the body's natural defenses against faulty proteins in the brain.
As people get older, the natural mechanisms for defending against brain plaques get weaker and become overwhelmed. For this study researchers from Cambridge, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and Lund University in Sweden gave bexarotene to nematode worms that had been genetically programmed to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
The bexarotene interrupted amyloid plaque formation early in the process. When given soon enough, the drug completely suppressed the formation of the plaques in the worms.
One of the vital pieces of this study is that the researchers established exactly what happens stage by stage in Alzheimer's disease, and what might result if a particular stage were interrupted or switched off.
Further animal testing – followed by human studies – will reveal whether this new preventive approach could halt the earliest biological events in Alzheimer's and keep damage at bay.