Developing potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease

Read about a research project we funded into novel drugs for treating Alzheimer's disease.

Lead Investigator: Prof Frank Gunn-Moore

Institution: University of St Andrews

Grant type: Project grant

Duration: 24 months

Amount: £139,579

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'I feel it is essential that this kind of collaborative and exciting work is funded. Finding new drugs and repurposing existing drugs has to be the way forward.'

'This is clearly an exciting and worthwhile project and if successful would be a major breakthrough in the treatment and possibly the reversal of symptoms.'

'A very worthwhile research project especially with the use of existing 'modified' drugs suitable for human consumption'

What do we already know?

Alzheimer's disease is characterised by toxic clumps of proteins that accumulate in or near brain cells, causing them to lose their function and eventually die. One function that is thought to be affected by Alzheimer's disease is the way that the cell produces energy. This energy production is controlled by a part of the cell called mitochondria. There is evidence that mitochondria do not function properly in Alzheimer's disease. It is thought that this could be because the Alzheimer's hallmark amyloid protein interacts with a protein involved in the function of mitochondria called ABAD. This interaction causes ABAD to act differently and causes toxic events in the cell, leading to damage and eventually cell death. 

Previous work has indicated that blocking the interaction between amyloid and ABAD can prevent loss of function in the mitochondria. Blocking this interaction has also been shown to improve memory and thinking in mice that show symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. 

What does this project involve?

A project previously awarded to this group by Alzheimer's Society has identified several potential compounds that prevent the interaction between amyloid and ABAD. Some of these are newly developed; others are existing drugs that are already in use for other conditions. 

The researchers will further test and refine the compounds that they have identified and understand the effect that blocking the ABAD-amyloid interaction has on brain cells. They will test whether the compounds cause any harm to brain cells grown in the lab, if they are able to cross the protective blood-brain barrier and find out whether they have any effect on the toxic processes that underlie Alzheimer's disease development. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

This work will help to identify and refine compounds that target a key contributing factor to the development of Alzheimer's disease. The use of existing drugs also forms a key part of our Drug Discovery programme.

If these methods show that one or more of the compounds holds promise in helping brain cells to function better, the research can then move on to the next stage of drug development. This will bring us closer to finding a potential new treatment for Alzheimer's disease. 

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