An international team of researchers has shown that a new small-molecule drug can restore brain function and memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. The drug works by stopping toxic ion flow in the brain that is known to trigger nerve cell death. Scientists envision that this drug could be used to treat Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS.
“This is the first drug molecule that can regulate memory loss by directly blocking ions from leaking through nerve cell membranes,” said Ratnesh Lal, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California San Diego and co-senior author of the study.
While collaborators in Germany will be pursuing clinical studies in human patients with neurodegenerative diseases, Lal and his research group at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering are particularly interested in testing anle138b on a variety of other diseases that are linked to toxic ion flow caused by amyloid proteins, including diabetes, tuberculosis and certain types of cancer. Lal’s group has performed extensive research on amyloid ion channels and their roles in these diseases. “Blocking the ion leakiness of amyloid channels using anle138b could be an effective therapy for various diseases,” Lal said.