New type of drug for neurodegenerative diseases

New types of drugs might be able to target Alzheimer's amyloid plaques and leave the rest of the enzyme activity as is. Also, vitamin B pills might be taken to reduce the risk of dementia.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

California researchers have discovered a molecule that might help treat Alzheimer's disease and prevent it before the symptoms occur.

Alzheimer's patients have a build up of amyloid plaques in their brains and it messes up neuron wiring. About 5.3 million Americans suffer from the disease and its most obvious sign is memory loss.

Researchers discovered a pathway for a new drug that can be used to regulate unsafe levels of peptide in the brain to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease the same way statins are taken to reduce a person's risk of developing heart disease.

The University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers looked at 80,000 possible compounds that might target A-beta 42 levels, which is believed to be responsible for messing up neurons.

In mouse models, the scientists found one compound that was able to reduce the levels of A-beta 42, while leaving the other functions running as normal.

That is exactly what researchers were looking for! From that one compound, the researchers made hundreds of related compounds called gamma-secretase modulators (GSMs).

In a separate animal model, the researchers found that a single dose of GSMs worked better than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory molecules in reducing the number of plaques.

"We've shown that a compound can modulate enzyme activity without completely shutting down the enzyme," UCSD's Steven Wagner said in a statement. "We think we've opened up a new area of drug discovery for pharmaceutical companies and universities. We hope they will pursue some of these compounds to see if they can be used in people."

This is a far cry from the current drugs in the market today which knock out peptide activity. The side effects of the current drugs aren't something to brush off either — nausea, gastrointestinal problems, hair color changes, and skin cancer.

Also this week, Harvard Medical School researchers discovered how to help a cell get rid of bad proteins. Knowing how to kill off bad proteins that end up being toxic to the cell, opens up the door to treat Parkinson's, CreutzfeldtJakob, and Alzheimer's disease.

By targeting a specific enzyme with a molecule, the researchers could help the cell's waste center get rid of the disfigured proteins faster.

In the meantime, preventative measures can be taken.

University of Oxford researchers found that people who took three vitamin B pills a day delayed the eventual shrinkage of their aging brain. As it turns out, the vitamin B pills reduced the risk of dementia in people by 50 percent!

Photo: Oregon Health & Science University

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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