New Drug Could Help Alzheimer's Patients
Enzymes act on the APP (Amyloid precursor protein) and cut it into fragments of protein, one of which is called beta-amyloid and its crucial in the formation of senile plaques in Alzheimer
Zileuton, a drug that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat asthma has been shown to help reduce the formation of amyloid beta, a peptide in the brain associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease.
According to the American Health Assistance Foundation, an estimated 36.5 million people suffer from Alzheimer's around the world. Alzheimer's is a brain disease that usually effects people over the age of 65. Memory loss, dementia, loss of concentration, and a decline in judgment are all symptoms of the disease. The disease is degenerative and symptoms get worse as patients get older. Patients with Alzheimer's often need round-the-clock care and a family member with Alzheimer's can take a physical, emotional and possibly financial tool on the family. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's, there are drugs on the market that slow down the progression of the disease in some patients.
Cholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept® are used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Namenda® is prescribed to treat moderate to severe cases of the disease. Alternative therapies include hormone replacement therapy, and sensory therapies like art and music therapy. Doctors also recommend a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a diet rich in produce and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
Zileuton inhibits 5-lipoxygenase -- an enzyme long known to exist in the brain - which controls the activation state of gamma secretase which is responsible for the final production of amyloid beta. Researchers at Temple University's School of Medicine found that Zileuton blocks the 5-lipoxygenase, reduces gamma secretase's production of amyloid beta and the subsequent build up of amyloid plaques in the brain by more than 50 percent.
Gamma secretase is present throughout the body and plays a significant role in many essential bodily functions. But blocking the enzyme completely may cause cancer. Zileuton only modulates the protein expression levels, keeping some of its vital functions in tact while blocking adverse effects like the development of the amyloid plaques.
Zileuton is already FDA approved, so the new drug use might be expected to advance to clinical trials relatively easily. "This drug is already on the market and, most importantly, is already FDA-approved, so you don't need to go through an intense drug discovery process," said Domenico Praticò, an associate professor of pharmacology in Temple's School of Medicine. "So we could quickly begin a clinical trial to determine if there is a new application for this drug against a disease where there is currently nothing."
Because the brain is one of our most complicated organs, scientists know some things about Alzheimer's. There are genetic markers that indicate the likelihood that someone my get the disease.
Photo courtesy of the National Institution on Aging.