Hope for drug that slows neurodegenerative disease

Neurons in a brain with Alzheimer's disease

Scientists have found a new drug treatment that can slow the progression of neurodegenerative disease in mice. The breakthrough research may offer fresh hope in tackling currently untreatable conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). 

The study was led by researchers at the University of Glasgow’s new Advanced Research Centre (ARC) and published in Science Signaling. It found that by using a novel drug, which selectively activates a brain protein called the M1-receptor, the lifespan of mice suffering from neurodegeneration could be extended. 

The study demonstrates that many of the features of human AD, including memory loss and inflammation of the brain, were treated in mice when they were given the new drug, known as a positive allosteric modulator (M1-PAM).  

The breakthrough described in the study indicates that, beyond treating symptoms, M1-PAMs may also be able to slow the overall progression of the disease.  

The drug used in the study is the result of over a decade of research from the teams at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and the University of Glasgow. The Vanderbilt University team are currently testing an M1-PAM in humans as a treatment for memory loss in AD patients. 

Professor Andrew Tobin, Director of the ARC and Professor of Molecular Pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, said: “The world desperately needs clues as to how to stop neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease – and our study is of critical importance as we show that many of the features of the disease seen in our animal model can be halted by our drug treatment.” 

Despite considerable effort by scientists across the world, attempts to find a drug that can halt or slow the progression of AD have so far been unsuccessful.

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