Diabetes Drug Treats Alzheimer’s
December 11, 2012

Report: Diabetes Drug Restores Memory In Alzheimer’s Brain Cells

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

According to a new report in The Journal of Neuroscience, an interdisciplinary team of Japanese and Canadian scientists have shown that a drug intended for diabetes, known as AC253, appears to restore memory in Alzheimer's-affected brain cells.

"This is very important because it tells us that drugs like this might be able to restore memory, even after Alzheimer's disease may have set in," said co-author Jack Jhamandas, a researcher with the University of Alberta.

The research team looked to investigate how protein signaling mechanisms can be responsible for Alzheimer´s symptoms. In a previous study, Jhamandas and his team were able to show that a diabetes drug that never made it to market, AC253, could obstruct the toxic effects of amyloid protein that result in brain cell death.

Amyloid protein, which is typically found in unusually high amounts in the memory and cognitive parts of the brains of Alzheimer's patients, has been known to diminish memory–and correlates to the treatment of diabetes through a sister protein, amylin, which comes from the pancreas of diabetic patients.

After sampling brain tissue from animals modeled for Alzheimer's disease, the team then tested the tissue in the lab by shocking the cells with electrical impulses. Normal functioning cells "remember" the experience and neurologists use this test to measure memory in a lab setting.

When AC253 was given to brain cells modeled for Alzheimer's, memory capacity was restored to levels similar to those found in normal cells.

According to Jhamandas, his team is continuing their research and wants to ascertain if the drug can act preventatively and "stop the impairment of behavior and cognition altogether in animals destined to develop Alzheimer's.”

Since it is difficult for AC253 to cross a barrier in the brain, future pharmaceutical research teams would need to design a similar drug that can facilitate the amyloid-blocking agent´s access to brain cells, Jhamandas noted. The University of Alberta professor said if the efforts to formulate a drug are successful, clinical trials could start within about five years.

"I think what we discovered may be part of the solution, but I can't say it will be the solution,” he said. “There is a long list of drugs and approaches that haven't panned out as expected in the fight against Alzheimer's. I don't think one drug or approach will solve Alzheimer's disease because it's a complicated disease, but I am cautiously optimistic about our discovery and its implications."

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded the work of the international team and applauded its findings.

"An estimated 1,125,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's over the coming 30 years," said Yves Joanette, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aging. "To respond to this growing health care challenge, CIHR developed the International Collaborative Research Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease.”

“The strategy aims to give Canadians rapid access to the latest approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias. The findings by Dr. Jhamandas could eventually help reduce the personal, social and economic impacts for Alzheimer's Disease."