A READILY AVAILABLE drug has been shown to have beneficial therapeutic effects in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which took place at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, looked at a drug currently used to treat liver disease, finding that it has beneficial therapeutic effects for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), has previously been shown to improve mitochondrial function in some individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Mitochondrial dysfunction is often a factor contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, appearing before any changes in protein plaque formation. As a result, the researchers investigated whether UDCA would have the same beneficial effects in Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers collected tissue from different Alzheimer’s disease patients and tested whether UDCA improved mitochondrial function. “For the first time in actual Alzheimer’s patient tissue, this study has shown that the drug UDCA can boost the performance of the cells’ batteries, the mitochondria,” said lead author Dr Heather Mortiboys, University of Sheffield. The researchers found that the drug can ‘correct’ the shape of the dysfunctional mitochondria, through redistributing dynamin-related protein 1, which has a key role in maintaining mitochondrial function. They believe that this may ultimately help to protect against neurodegeneration.
“Most importantly, we found the drug to be active in cells from people with the most common type of the devastating disease – sporadic Alzheimer’s – which could mean it has potential for thousands of patients,” added Dr Mortiboys.
The researchers highlighted that, as the drug is already being used for liver disease, the time taken for the drug to reach the clinic to readily treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be significantly reduced.
“[Since there have been] no new dementia drugs in over 15 years, it’s vital we continue to approach Alzheimer’s from as many angles as possible. Through innovative research we are building a clearer picture of the complexities of the disease and how it develops in the brain,” said Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Cambridge, UK.
The study results highlight the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, and how answers to difficult to answer questions can be found in the most unlikely places, holding hope for the future of many diseases that clinicians may feel beneficial therapeutic discoveries have slowed.