Alzheimer's patients may get help from drug originated for diabetes

Feb 04, 2011 By Raquel Maurier
Ryoichi Kimura, a visiting researcher from Japan and Jack Jhamandas

A researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta has discovered that a drug originally intended for diabetes may hold promise in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

During tests in his lab, Jack Jhamandas, of the faculty’s Division of Neurology and his team discovered that that drug AC253, developed for but never put on the market, blocked the toxic effects of a that is deposited in large quantities in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This beta amyloid protein, which is linked to the cause of Alzheimer’s, makes toxic—ultimately causing the brain cells to die.

“From the point-of-view of therapies, it may open up some new avenues for us to explore in terms of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Jhamandas. “I think patients with this condition, their families and caregivers, live on a word called ‘hope’ and this is a type of a discovery that engenders that hope, that ignites that hope and that keeps it burning.”

Jhamandas and his research team, who are funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, published their results in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Pathology in January.

The team reported two other significant discoveries related to Alzheimer’s. They found a second way to block the toxic effects of beta amyloid protein, using a relatively new technique to “silence” a gene involved in the process of brain cell death. By silencing the gene, numerous processes triggering cell death were blocked, so they were able to prevent brain cells from dying.

“We altered the genes and low and behold, beta amyloid protein lost its ability to kill brain cells as effectively as it normally would,” says Jhamandas.

The third finding, this one in collaboration with David Westaway, a fellow Alzheimer’s researcher in the faculty, relates to basic understanding of the disease. They discovered the genes that could be silenced weren’t everywhere in the brain. Both these genes and the toxic protein were only found in large quantities in areas of the brain responsible for memory, learning and cognition, says Jhamandas.

“It was quite a surprising observation. We’re not sure what it fully means, so we are in the process of looking at this in brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients.”

Jhamandas said some of the next steps for his research team are to inject a compound into the brains of lab models to see if learning and memory problems can be stopped or prevented. If that is the case, it “really could be the launching point for a development of compounds that could be tried in human clinical trials.

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

Related Stories

Development of a safer vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease

Nov 17, 2010

A new vaccine protects against memory problems associated with Alzheimer's disease, but without potentially dangerous side effects, a new animal study reports. The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2011
This is encouraging news to everyone afflicted by this disease and it does give new hope for all of them. Wait, what was it that I'm commenting on?

More news stories

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.