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Potential Alzheimer's treatment disrupts amyloid protein formation

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Another potential new Alzheimer's treatment is in the works--a group of compounds that appeared, in the lab, to disrupt the formation of those ominous clumps of amyloid protein many blame for propelling the mental decline in patients with the deadly disease.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis identified the new potential weapon, known as "spin-labeled fluorene compounds," a variation of fluorene compounds initially developed as imaging agents for use with PET scans to detect amyloid protein.

Their work builds on previous efforts, where the researchers found that the fluorenes bind with and destabilize the amyloid beta peptide, which scientists think destroy neurons in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Their new finding determined that spin-labeled fluorene iterations helped block the amyloid beta formation even better than the non-labeled fluorene variety. An added nitroxide element, used to measure the fluorene activity, also helped protect neurons, the researchers said. (They conducted their tests using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, for which the nitroxide label enabled easier reading.)

Here is a big early plus: As the researchers explain, fluorene compounds can successfully penetrate the blood-brain barrier. That in itself is a milestone when many potential treatments have failed because they are unable to reach the brain. But this is so early-stage that much more work must be done. Animal tests haven't even begun yet, but researchers plan to start that work soon and will examine the safety and efficacy of spin-labeled fluorene compounds in small animals. Assuming those results are promising, then human trials become the greater challenge, because positive results in animals aren't always repeatable in people. For further study details, read the journal PLoS ONE online.

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