New research on mice suggests that many commonly prescribed drugs are capable of reducing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Led by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, M.D., Ph.D., researchers at The Mount Sinai Medical Center used a computer algorithm to screen 1,600 commercially available medications to assess their impact on the brain accumulation of beta-amyloid.
The study, published online in the journal PLoS One, researchers found that currently available medications prescribed for conditions such as hypertension, depression, and insomnia were found to either to block or to enhance the accumulation of beta-amyloid, the component of amyloid plaques.
Beta-amyloid is a protein that abnormally accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease and is believed to be responsible for neurodegeneration.
“This line of investigation will soon lead to the identification of common medications that might potentially trigger conditions associated with the prevention, or conversely the onset, of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Pasinetti.
“They may be a novel reference for physicians to consider when prescribing the most appropriate drug, particularly in subjects at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”
For the study, Pasinetti and his colleagues administered these drugs in mice that were genetically engineered to develop the hallmark amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
After six months of treatment with blood pressure medicines, amyloid plaques and neurodegeneration were significantly reduced in the mice.
Carvedilol is one medicine that shows clinical promise – the drug is now under clinical investigation in Alzheimer ‘s disease with the intent to slow down memory deterioration.
“In recent years, amyloid plaques have become one of the main focal points in the search to understand and to treat Alzheimer’s disease,” said Pasinetti. “Thus, identifying novel drug treatments that prevent harmful beta-amyloid generation will help in the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
“For example, one very exciting finding of our study is that Carvedilol, already approved for treatment of hypertension, may immediately become a promising drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s as well.”
Several limitations accompany the research, with the authors noting that studies must be immediately verified in human-safety studies.
Pasinetti hopes these findings will lead to multiple clinical trials in the future to identify preventive drugs, which will need to be prescribed at tolerable dosages.
“If we can repurpose drugs currently used for different indications, such as lowering blood pressure, this could have dramatic implications for this population,” said Pasinetti.