New Drug Treats Alzheimer's, MS and Brain Trauma

Research Shows Success with Anti-Inflammatory

Written by Brianna Panzica
Posted July 25, 2012

Alzheimer's research is one of the main focuses of neurological scientists. The disease is affecting a rising number of adults, doubling since 1980 to 5.4 million in 2000 according to the CDC.

Current science, including the Swedish study of a vaccination thought to delay onset, focuses on beta-amyloid plaques. The plaques build up on the brain, even before symptoms begin to show, and many consider them to be the most important thing to target.

But scientists at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine are working on a drug class that will target a different area of the disease and even possibly provide treatment for other neurological diseases.

MW151 and MW189 target brain inflammation. The drug class works by stopping overproduction of proinflammatory cytkines, proteins which cause brain inflammation and have been linked to the neurological malfunction involved in Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and even brain trauma.

The Northwestern study, led by D. Martin Watterson and Linda Van Eldik, was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, describing the drugs' function with mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's.

The mice received the drug as the proinflammatory cytokine production was just beginning, and several months later they showed normal levels compared to those without the drug, which had very high levels of the protein.

From Science Daily:

“The drug protected against the damage associated with learning and memory impairment,” Van Eldik noted. “Giving this drug before Alzheimer's memory changes are at a late stage may be a promising future approach to therapy.”

And the same drug showed promise in mice with multiple sclerosis and brain trauma. When the onset of multiple sclerosis did occur, it was less severe in mice receiving MW151.

In brain trauma patients, glia cells activate an overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines. The MW151 inhibited the glia cells from activating. In this case, however, the drug must be administered early—anywhere from 3 to 6 hours after the brain trauma occurs.

From Science Daily:

“If you took a drug like this early on after traumatic brain injury or even a stroke, you could possibly prevent the long-term complications of that injury including the risk of seizures, cognitive impairment and, perhaps, mental health issues,” [Mark] Wainwright said.

An unnamed biotech company was licensed for commercial development of the drug and has already completed Phase One of human clinical trials, according to Science Daily.

Success in human trials could mark a breakthrough in the treatment of neurological diseases.

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