Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder resulting in loss of memory and other important mental functions. By 2050, the number is expected to climb to over 16 million.
Researchers at KU, led by Dr. Shirley Shidu Yan, have discovered a promising new treatment to help reduce the amount of a main component found in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients: amyloid plaques. These plaques are an accumulation of amyloid beta peptides (Aβ). Studies have shown how Aβ interacts and bonds with mitochondrial enzymes in brain cells. These affected cells dysfunction and lead to Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.
The new treatment works by disrupting the bond between the peptides and the enzymes using small-molecule inhibitors. This disruption reduces the plaque accumulation, and in transgenic animal studies, has shown to improve learning memory thereby reversing effects of the disease.
Other research has led to similar treatments, but has shown several disadvantages including low bio-availability. These inhibitor compounds have demonstrated positive drug-like qualities including good absorption, low toxicity, excellent blood brain barrier penetration, and higher potency levels.
In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, these compounds may have potential to treat other diseases whose pathogenesis involves amyloid accumulation including Parkinson’s and Type II diabetes.