Brain plaques tied to Alzheimer's rapidly cleared in mice

Brain plaques tied to Alzheimer's rapidly cleared in miceFeb 11/2012. The exact cause of Alzheimer´s disease remains unknown. One of the leading theories involves so called beta-amyloid plaques that build up in the spaces between nerve cells in patients with the disease. Clearing these plaques is one of the major targets in Alzheimer´s research today and drugs are already being tested in human clinical trials. In the body, apolipoprotein E (ApoE) plays an important role in removing beta-amyloid plaques. 

Scientists at the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio have been trying to find ways to boost the levels of ApoE which in theory might reduce beta-amyloid plaques. They recently tested a drug called bexarotene which has been approved for treatment of skin cancer. Within 72 hours of the administration of the drug to young mice, beta amyloid plaques were found to be significantly reduced. Furthermore, bexarotene stimulated a rapid reversal of cognitive, social and olfactory deficits, thus improving brain function. The results are published in a recent edition of the journal Science

Researcher Page E Cramer said: This is an unprecedented finding. "Previously, the best existing treatment for Alzheimer´s disease in mice required several months to reduce plaque in the brain."

Fellow researcher Gary Landreth said the study "was particularly exciting and rewarding" and held the "potential promise of a therapy for Alzheimer´s disease". However, he stressed that the drug had been tested in only three mouse models which simulate the early stages of the disease and are not Alzheimer´s. He warned people not to "try this at home", as the drug had not been proven to work in Alzheimer´s patients and there was no indication of what any dose should be. "We need to be clear, the drug works quite well in mouse models of the disease. Our next objective is to ascertain if it acts similarly in humans," he said. His group is preparing to start trials in a small group of people to see if there is a similar effect in humans. 

David Allsop, who is professor of neuroscience at Lancaster University has warned for to much optimism: "I would say that the results should be treated with cautious optimism. He adds: "It looks promising in the mouse model but in recent years, these types of experiments in mice had not translated well into humans."

Original Paper: ApoE-Directed Therapeutics Rapidly Clear β-Amyloid and Reverse Deficits in AD Mouse Models. Paige E. CramerJohn R. CirritoDaniel W. WessonC. Y. Daniel LeeJ. Colleen KarloAdriana E. ZinnBrad T. CasaliJessica L. RestivoWhitney D. GoebelMichael J. JamesKurt R. BrundenDonald A. WilsonGary E. Landreth.

© Axel F Sigurdsson 2012