Building on an earlier breakthrough, Professor Giovanna Mallucci and her team at the University of Cambridge have identified two drugs that can block the death of brain cells in mice models of neurodegeneration. The drugs target the ‘unfolded protein response’ in cells, a natural defence mechanism that is activated by the accumulation of misfolded proteins in several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s.
Funded by the MRC, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Drug Discovery Foundation and published today in the journal Brain, the study finds that a licensed antidepressant called trazodone and a compound in liquorice called dibenzoylmethane (DBM) are able to reduce brain cell death in mice with prion disease and with frontotemporal dementia.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said: “We’re excited by the potential of these findings. They show that a treatment approach originally discovered while researching prion disease might also work to prevent the death of brain cells in some forms of dementia. This research is at a very early stage and has not yet been tested in people - but as one of the drugs is already available as a treatment for depression, the time taken to get from the lab to the pharmacy could be dramatically reduced.”
“The drug blocks a natural defence mechanism in cells which is overactive in the brains of people with frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, so has the potential to work for several conditions. So far it has only been tested in mice with frontotemporal dementia but Alzheimer’s Society is now funding the researchers to test it in models of Alzheimer’s too.”