From Discover Magazine: Cancer Drug Today, Alzheimer’s Drug Tomorrow? Hopeful Results in Mouse Study | 80beats

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Amyloid beta deposits in brain of Alzheimer’s patient.

What’s the News: A drug used to cure skin cancer is also a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s, according to a new study in Science. The drug not only reduced levels of amyloid beta—a protein whose elevated levels are a hallmark of the disease—but also reversed cognitive decline. In mice, dramatic effects were evident after just 72 hours.

How the Heck:

Based on known molecular pathways, the researchers thought that the skin cancer drug bexarotene could enhance expression of  a gene called apoE. apoE activates the immune system to break down amyloid beta, and mutations in the apoE gene are a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
Turns out the researchers were right. Mice with genetic mutations that make them prone to the disease are the standard model for Alzheimer’s research. When these mice were treated with bexarotene, macrophages in their brain gobbled up amyloid beta, and the levels of amyloid beta fell by 40% in just 72 hours.
Molecular changes are good and all, but an effective drug for Alzheimer’s also has to treat the behavioral symptoms. Bexarotene actually reversed cognitive deficits. The team put treated mice through standard memory tests, including …


from Discover Magazine