A recent investigation carried out by American scientists with laboratory mice, which has published the journal Science, has proven that a drug used so far in the treatment of cancer can be useful to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and even reverse the cognitive disorders that this pathology causes.

Alzheimer's disease develops on numerous occasions due to the inability of the body to eliminate beta-amyloid plaques that form in the brain as a result of the presence of a beta amyloid protein that we produce naturally. Neuroscientist Gary Landreth discovered in 2008 that apolipoprotein E (ApoE) favors the elimination of beta-amyloid proteins that cause the formation of plaques. A medicine that has been used for ten years to fight cancer, bexarotene, has the property of stimulating receptors that are responsible for controlling the production of ApoE and, therefore, the scientist and his team, the Faculty of Medicine of the Case Western Reserve University, administered this drug to mice in order to determine whether increasing the production of ApoE were able to reduce the beta amyloid plaques in the brains of animals.

Treatment with bexarotene reduced the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain of mice, and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease such as deterioration of memory and behavior also reversed.

The researchers found that amyloid beta plates actually decreased by 25 percent just a few hours after the bexarotene was administered to the mice, and that the memory impairment and behavioral disturbances exhibited by the animals also significantly reversed. The effect of the therapy was maintained for three days.

The anomalous behavior of the sick mice could be observed, for example, in that they had lost the instinct to prepare a nest and they did not do it although they had the necessary paper for it. However, 72 hours after receiving the medication, the animals began to take the paper to prepare their nests, and also improved their ability to detect odors and respond to these types of stimuli.

The authors of the study explained that half of the beta amyloid plaques present in the brain of the mice included in the experiment disappeared 72 hours after the administration of bexarotene, which has led them to the conclusion that this drug acts by stimulating the immune cells of the brain to be able to eliminate these plaques, and thanks to this process can reverse the symptoms of the disease. The results of the research seem hopeful, but it remains to be seen if the drug will produce the same effects in patients with Alzheimer's, a neurodegenerative disease for which, until now, no cure is available.

Alzheimer's drug candidate may be first to prevent disease progression (November 2019).