There is so much research being done on potential drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease that I can’t even keep track of it all, but my alma mater Northwestern University is doing what could be breakthrough.
Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine is doing trials of a potential new class of drugs that would prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury (TBI), according the MedicalExpress.com.
The drug acts by reducing brain inflammation, so-called neuroinflammation, which “is increasingly believed to play a major role in the progressive damage characteristic of these chronic diseases and brain injuries,” MedicalExpress.com reported.
Northwestern has already received patents for this new category of drugs and has even has a biotech company doing its commercial development.
Tackling diseases such as Alzheimer’s by targeting inflammation of the brain is a new approach. Most of the other drugs now in trials aim to stop beta amyloid plaque from forming in the brain, a substance that essentially gums up the brain’s connections.
The drug that Northwestern is developing acts by stopping over-production of a brain protein called proinflammatory cytokines, according to MedicalExpress.com. When too many cytokines are produced, the brain’s synapses “misfire.” Neurons then are no longer connected and they die, the website reported. Then the brain’s cortex and hippocampus can be damaged, with memory negatively impacted as a result. When someone has Alzheimer’s, their synapses essentially go haywire.
A study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience said that one of the new drugs was given to a mouse that was genetically engineered to get Alzheimer’s. That test mouse didn’t develop the disease, MedicalExpress.com reported.
In another study, a mouse with Alzheimer’s was given one of the Northwestern drugs. It halted the over-production of cytokines in the mouse’s brain, keeping them at normal levels and thereby keeping synapses functioning normally, MedicalExpress.com said.
Northwestern’s new drugs are also being tested to treat multiple sclerosis, a disease in which proinflammatory cytokines damage and destroy the covering of the nerve cells that send signals down the spinal cord.
In the case of TBI, following such an injury glia brain cells release a flood of proinflammatory cytokines, which can end up causing cognitive problems in the long term, according to MedicalExpress.com. The deluge of the cytokines may make the brain more vulnerable to severe damage after a second TBI, the website said.
I hope Northwestern succeeds in creating drugs that are a one-stop-shop for a variety of heartbreaking illnesses.