Washington: Sidney Strickland's Laboratory of Neurobiology and Genetics at Rockefeller University have identified a compound that might halt the progression of Alzheimer's by interfering with the role amyloid-beta, a small protein that forms plaques in Alzheimer's brains, plays in the formation of blood clots.
This latest study builds on previous work in Strickland's lab showing amyloid-beta can interact with fibrinogen, the clotting agent, to form difficult-to-break-down clots that alter blood flow, cause inflammation and choke neurons.
"Our experiments in test tubes and in mouse models of Alzheimer's showed the compound, known as RU-505, helped restore normal clotting and cerebral blood flow. But the big pay-off came with behavioral tests in which the Alzheimer's mice treated with RU-505 exhibited better memories than their untreated counterparts," Strickland says. "These results suggest we have found a new strategy with which to treat Alzheimer's disease."
RU-505 emerged from a pack of 93,716 candidates selected from libraries of compounds, the researchers write in the June issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Hyung Jin Ahn, a research associate in the lab, examined these candidates with a specific goal in mind: Find one that interferes with the interaction between fibrinogen and amyloid-beta. In a series of tests that began with a massive, automated screening effort at Rockefeller's High Throughput Resource Center, Ahn and colleagues winnowed the 93,000 contenders to five. Then, test tube experiments whittled the list down to one contender: RU-505, a small, synthetic compound.
Because RU-505 binds to amyloid-beta and only prevents abnormal blood clot formation, it does not interfere with normal clotting. It is also capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier.
The brains of the treated mice had less of the chronic and harmful inflammation associated with the disease, and blood flow in their brains was closer to normal than that of untreated Alzheimer's mice. The RU-505-treated mice also did better when placed in a maze. Mice naturally want to escape the maze, and are trained to recognize visual cues to find the exit quickly. Even after training, Alzheimer's mice have difficulty in exiting the maze. After these mice were treated with RU-505, they performed much better.
This work is highlighted in the July issue of Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.