Scientists Develop Drug That Improves Memory and Prevents Brain Damage in Mice

Findings may lead to first therapeutic drug to treat advanced Alzheimer’s
May 15, 2013
Source: Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy
Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a program of BrightFocus Foundation supported Dr. Marguerite Prior with a Fellowship from 2008 to 2010 concerning a project involving a novel therapeutic target to reduce cognitive failure in Alzheimer’s disease”).
A drug developed by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, known as J147, improves memory and prevents brain damage in aged mice following short-term treatment. The findings, published May 14 in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, may pave the way to a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Salk scientists developed J147, a synthetic drug shown to improve memory and prevent brain damage in mice engineered to show features of the Alzheimer’s disease.
“J147 is an exciting new compound because it really has strong potential to be an Alzheimer’s disease therapeutic by slowing disease progression and reversing memory deficits following short-term treatment,” says lead study author Marguerite Prior, a research associate in Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory.
Despite years of research, there are no disease-modifying drugs for Alzheimer’s. Current FDA-approved medications, including Aricept, Razadyne and Exelon, offer only fleeting short-term benefits for Alzheimer’s patients, but they do nothing to slow the steady, irreversible decline of brain function that erases a person’s memory and ability to think clearly.
J147 was developed at Salk in the laboratory of David Schubert, a professor in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory. He and his colleagues bucked the trend within the pharmaceutical industry, which has focused on the biological pathways involved in the formation of amyloid plaques, the dense deposits of protein that characterize the disease. Instead, the Salk team used living neurons grown in laboratory dishes to test whether their new synthetic compounds, which are based upon natural products derived from plants, were effective at protecting brain cells against several pathologies associated with brain aging. From the test results of each chemical iteration of the lead compound, they were able to alter their chemical structures to make them much more potent. Although J147 appears to be safe in mice, the next step will require clinical trials to determine whether the compound will prove safe and effective in humans.