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Exciting new Breakthrough for Alzheimer's Disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Case Western researchers show drug clears brain plaques in mice with Alzheimer's

Researchers at Case Western Reserve have used a drug to quickly reverse Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The drug, currently on the market for cancer treatment, showed dramatic results for clearing the brain of toxic amyloid plaques from the brains of mice.

The drug, bexarotene, boosts the production of Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) in the brain that in turn clears toxic beta amyloid proteins associated with brain changes in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bexarotene quickly cleared ApoE to improve memory and behavior in mice. Within 6 hours of administering the drug, amyloid levels fell by 25 percent. The effect lasted for 3 days.

"This is an unprecedented finding," says Paige Cramer, PhD candidate at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and first author of the study. "Previously, the best existing treatment for Alzheimer's disease in mice required several months to reduce plaque in the brain."

The drug, used to treat skin cancer, reverses the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. In the mouse studies, more than half of the amyloid plaques were cleared within 72 hours. In all, the medication cleared 75 percent of the brain proteins that form plaques in the brain.

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According to the researchers, bexarotene is also safe and has been around for more than a decade, a factor that could speed up clinical trials. The researchers are hoping to launch clinical trials as soon as possible.

Bexarotene stimulates retinoid X receptors (RXR), which control how much ApoE is produced in the brain. It is in a class of medications called retinoids. FDA approved use is for treating a type of skin cancer called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

In 2008 Case Western Reserve researcher Gary Landreth, PhD, professor of neurosciences discovered ApoE cleared naturally occurring amyloid plaque, leading him to explore whether the drug could be useful for Alzheimer’s treatment.

Bexarotene attacks the cause of the progressive brain disorder. The drug may have potential for helping millions of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Case Western University
"Major Breakthrough in Alzheimer's Disease" 2/9/2012
U.S. National Library of Medicine
Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Page updated on Sept. 26, 2013