Research coming from a team of scientists from the University of Pittsburg Graduate School of Public Health indicates that an anti-cancer drug is effective in reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model. The findings of the study are available in the recent issue of the journal Science.
The researchers studied the earlier published findings based on the anti-cancer drug bexarotene, an FDA-approved drug for treating cutaneous T cell lymphoma. Bexarotene is a compound associated vitamin A that activates Retinoic X Receptors or RXR. These receptors bind to DNA and control gene expression that guides the many biological functions in the body.
Elevated levels of Apolipoprotein E or APOE lead to RXR activations by the compound bexarotene.
Senior author Rada Koldamova, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and her team were conducting tests on mice expressing human Apolipoprotein E4 or APOE4, known as the genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The team then came to know about a Case Western Reserve University study that claimed bexarotene elevates memory and cleared up amyloid plaques from the brains of mice expressing Apolipoprotein E. Amyloid plaques are toxic protein fragments that do damage to neurons in the brain that results in memory deficits linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers wanted to conduct the study hoping to arrive with the same findings as the Case Western Reserve University study. The researchers were able to show that the Alzheimer’s disease mouse models treated with bexarotene regained their lost cognitive skills and confirmed the decrease in amyloid beta peptides that surrounded brain cells. However, the researchers did not find any evidence that the drug cleared out the amyloid plaques in the brain.
The researchers believe that the anti-cancer drug’s ability to improve the cognitive skills of mice expressing a counterpart of Alzheimer’s disease is not related to amyloid beta and may work through a different and still unknown process.
In the experiments conducted by the researchers, mice with gene mutations associated with Alzheimer’s expressing APOE 4 or APOE 3 were treated with bexarotene. Ten days after treatment, the mice underwent a spatial test. It used cues to help the mice detect a hidden platform inside a water maze. Another test involved testing the long-term memory of the mouse’s skills in distinguishing between two familiar objects after introducing a third and new object.
The results showed that the mice with Alzheimer’s gene mutations completed the cognitive tests as well as their non-Alzheimer’s counterparts. Bexarotene treatment did not have any effect on the weight and behavior of mice. The study showed findings similar in both male and female mice.
Source: Medical News Today