Skin cancer drug 'clears Alzheimer's protein from the brain'
Mice with dementia showed improved behaviour following treatment
People with Alzheimer's see a build up of amyloid plaques between the nerve cells in the brain. These were cleared in mice thanks to a skin cancer drug
A skin cancer drug could prove to be a precious weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
In tests, bexarotene rapidly improved brain health, memory and behaviour of mice genetically engineered to develop the disease.
Researchers described the effect as unprecedented and ‘tremendously exciting’.
But others cautioned against raising hopes, pointing out that what works in laboratory mice doesn’t always work in humans.
The researchers, from Cape Western Reserve University in the U.S., used bexarotene to break down amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.
Within just six hours of giving the drug to the mice, levels of one type of amyloid fell by a quarter, according to the study detailed in the journal Science.
Levels of another form halved in three days. Memory and behaviour also rapidly improved with treated mice eagerly building nests – an instinct lost by the poorly animals.
Researcher Daniel Wesson said: ‘The results of this study, showing the preservation of behaviour across a wide spectrum, are tremendously exciting and suggest great promise.’
However, Professor Derek Hill, of University College London, warned: ‘Demonstrating that potential drugs for Alzheimer’s are safe and effective takes many years, and requires trials on thousands of patients.’
Dr Anne Corbett, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘This exciting study could be the beginning of a journey towards a potential new way to treat Alzheimer’s disease.’
She added that focusing on existing drugs rather than trying to invent new ones should speed the development of treatments.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.