Single pill could be used to treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis

 

A single pill has the potential to treat multiple brain conditions including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, it has been revealed.

Scientists have developed a new class of drug which can be taken orally and prevents the damaging effects of inflammation in the brain.

Early results from animal studies suggest it could be effective against a plethora of devastating brain conditions.

They include Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), motor neurone disease, frontotemporal dementia, and complications from traumatic brain injury.

Two of the drugs, known as MW151 and MW189, have been patented by US scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago.

They work by blocking excess production of damaging immune system signalling molecules called pro-inflammatory cytokines.

New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed how early treatment with MW151 prevented the development of full-blown Alzheimer's in laboratory mice.

Scientists say the drugs offer a completely different approach to treating the disease to others currently being tested.

These target the accumulation of beta amyloid protein deposits in the brain which are a key feature of Alzheimer's.

In contrast the new drugs are designed to stop inflammation disrupting wiring in the brain and killing neurons.

Pro-inflammatory cytokines cause the synapses, the connections between brain cells, to misfire. Eventually the whole organisation of the brain falls into disarray, like a failing computer, and neurons die.

"In Alzheimer's disease, many people now view the progression from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown Alzheimer's as an indication of malfunctioning synapses, the pathways that allow neurons to talk to each other," said Professor Martin Watterson, one of the study leaders at Northwestern University's Feinberg School.

"High levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can contribute to synaptic malfunction."

Mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's were given MW151 three times a week starting at six months of age. A comparable stage in humans would be when a patient begins to experience mild mental decline.

At 11 months, by which time the mice should have developed full-blown Alzheimer's, cytokine levels in the brains of the animals were found to be back to normal. Their synapses were also working normally.

Untreated mice had abnormally high brain levels of cytokines and their synapses were misfiring.

Co-author Dr Linda Van Eldik, director of the Sanders-Brown Centre on Aging at the University of Kentucky, said: "The drug protected against the damage associated with learning and memory impairment. Giving this drug before Alzheimer's memory changes are at a late stage may be a promising future approach to therapy."

Harmful inflammation also plays a role in a wide range of other neurodegenerative disorders, raising the prospect of using the drug to treat many different conditions.

Earlier tests on mice showed that MW151 reduced the severity of a disease similar to MS in humans that strips nerve fibres of their insulating myelin covering.

In other mouse experiments, the drug prevented a surge of pro-inflammatory cytokines after traumatic brain injury.

"If you took a drug like this early on after traumatic brain injury or even a stroke, you could possibly prevent the long-term complications of that injury including the risk of seizures, cognitive impairment, and, perhaps, mental health issues," said Professor Mark Wainright, also from Northwestern's Feinberg School.

Parkinson's, non-Alzheimer's dementia and motor neurone disease were other conditions that could potentially be tackled using the new approach.

A key advantage of the drug is that it can be swallowed as a pill, rather than being injected. It easily crosses the "blood brain barrier", a physical and molecular fortress wall that stops toxic molecules entering the brain.

Results are yet to be released from the first Phase I trial assessing the drug's safety in human patients.

This is the first step in winning clinical approval for a new treatment.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "This research takes an interesting approach to tackling Alzheimer's. Most current therapies in development target amyloid, whereas this drug appears to act by reducing the damage caused by activation of the immune system.

"We know that the immune system and inflammation are important players in Alzheimer's disease and so it's promising to see that this approach could hold benefits.

"These are early findings in mice and the drugs would need to be tested in humans before we could judge their true potential as a new treatment. With over half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer's, effective new therapies are vital.

"Research is key to reaching this goal and we must keep investing in fresh ideas and new strategies if we are to tackle this devastating disease head-on."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

    £500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN TAWe are looking to recrui...

    Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

    £40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

    Test Job

    TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis