Cleveland Clinic Focuses on Anti-Inflammatory Drug Compound

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Research over the past decade has revealed a lot about Alzheimer’s disease progression. Alzheimer’s starts with an abnormal accumulation of a “sticky” protein, beta amyloid, also referred to as ABeta, in the brain. However, the presence of the ABeta does not, in itself, cause Alzheimer’s symptoms.  Researchers know that something else occurs once  ABeta accumulates that starts an inflammatory process. It is this inflammatory process that results in the breakdown of neurons and the elimination of synapses in the brain, creating the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s. What researchers have yet to discover is what causes the inflammatory response.

As reported in this week’s edition of Nature NeuroscienceCleveland Clinic is studying a new approach to preventing the brain inflammation which seems to be at the root of Alzheimer’s disease. It is focused on a compound known as MDA7. This compound is currently used to treat chronic pain in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Treating physicians noted that the compound has anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, researchers started experimenting with its use in connection with other diseases known to have  inflammatory components.

To date, use of MDA7 to modify the impact of Alzheimer’s disease has been tested only on animals. However, the researchers report that the use of MDA7 stops the inflammatory process that genetically modifies the brain proteins linked to the creation of long term memory.  According to one of the researchers, Mohamed Naguib, preliminary results suggest that MDA7 has the ability to restore cognition and memory by maintaining or repairing the synapses that typically are destroyed as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Cleveland Clinic is now preparing to launch Phase 1 clinical trials for MDA7. A word of caution: other drugs that seemed to be  effective in slowing Alzheimer’s in mice proved not to work in humans. However, studying how this compound works should at least add to the understanding of the inflammatory process and it may yield an effective treatment.

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