Over 30 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is a debilitating condition, which has no known cure. It is a primary cause of dementia and with ageing population it is expected that we are going to have more and more cases of Alzheimer’s in the coming decades.
Now scientists from the University of Queensland have identified a potential drug target for Alzheimer’s disease.
The target in question is an enzyme, called dPI3K. Scientists found that it produces a toxic peptide which accumulates into plaques in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. As you may know, amyloid plaques is one of the main characteristics of Alzheimer’s. They block connection between different neurons, causing havoc in patient’s brain. But does dPI3K enzyme actually participate in Alzheimer’s? It sure seems so – scientists knocked it out of some mice and saw the levels of plaques in the brain and the inflammatory response return back to normal.
Scientists took a closer look at those lab mice and found no plaques in their brains. On the other hand, they still produced toxic peptides but for some reason they did not accumulate into plaques, which further confirms dPI3K’s potential to become a valuable drug target.
And so that was what scientists did next – they tried drugs that affect dPI3K enzyme. Dr Ramón Martínez-Mármol, one of the authors of the study, described the result: “We found a drug targeting this enzyme had already been used to treat leukaemia—we used it to treat cells taken from mice with the disease and found that the movement of the toxic peptide inside the cells reduced”.
There are many attempts at creating drugs that would address Alzheimer’s right at the location – in the brain. However, these medicine have to cross something called blood-brain barrier. This new drug, chosen to block dPI3K enzyme also has to cross that obstacle. This is why scientists say that the next step in this research is to design a new delivery method to transport drugs from the blood supply into the brain, where they could work their magic, addressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease currently is incurable. Despite many advancements and reports about “breakthroughs” this remained true. Current treatments are only addressing some symptoms, but in the future, when understanding of the mechanism of the disease is better, a more holistic approach will be possible.
Source: University of Queensland