Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


An experimental Alzheimer's drug reverses genetic changes thought to spur the disease


Aging takes its toll on the brain, and the cells of the hippocampus--a brain region with circuitry crucial to learning and memory--are particularly vulnerable to changes that can lead to Alzheimer's disease or cognitive decline. With the hope of counteracting the changes that can lead to these two conditions, researchers at Rockefeller University and their colleagues have begun examining the effects of a drug known to affect this circuitry.

In new research described recently in Molecular Psychiatry, a team led by Ana Pereira, Instructor in Clinical Medicine in Bruce McEwen's laboratory found that the drug, riluzole, is capable of reversing key genetic changes associated with these conditions.

After treatment with riluzole, the brains of old rats showed more of a transporter molecule that removes excess glutamate, (green fluorescence, right) as compared to untreated rats (left).

Credit: Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University/Molecular Psychiatry

"In aging and Alzheimer's, the chemical signal glutamate can accumulate between neurons, damaging the circuitry," Pereira says. "When we treated rats with riluzole, we saw a suite of changes. Perhaps most significantly, expression of molecules responsible for clearing excess glutamate returned to more youthful levels."

Previous work in McEwen's lab by Pereira has shown that the drug prompted structural changes in rats' neurons that prevent the memory loss often seen in old animals. Pereira is currently testing riluzole for the first time in Alzheimer's patients in a clinical trial at the Rockefeller University Hospital.

Glutamate clean up

Generally, glutamate is released to excite other neurons and doesn't linger in the spaces between them. As we age, though, the system gets a little leaky and glutamate can build up in these intercellular spaces.

This happens in part when neurons make less and less of the transporter molecule responsible for removing excess glutamate. When it accumulates, this essential neurotransmitter can cause big problems, damaging or killing neurons and so contributing to Alzheimer's disease, and other disorders.

Pereira and co-first author Jason Gray, a postdoc in the lab sought to better understand the molecular vulnerabilities of an aging glutamate system and riluzole's effect on it.

"The essence is we used a drug known to modulate glutamate, and when we gave it to old rats, we saw it reversed many of the changes that begin in middle age in the hippocampus," Gray says. "We saw a similar pattern when we compared the riluzole-induced changes to data from Alzheimer's patients--in a number of key pathways in the hippocampus, the drug produced an effect opposing that of the disease."

The drug, it turns out, modifies the activity of certain genes in an aged animal to resemble that of a younger rat. For example, the researchers found that the expression of a gene called EAAT2, which has been linked to Alzheimer's and is known to play a role in removing excess glutamate from nerve fibers, declines as the animals age. However, in rats treated with riluzole this gene's activity was brought back to its youthful levels.

New targets for treatments?

In addition to its potential ability to allay memory loss and cognitive decline, riluzole is attractive as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's. The drug is already being used to treat another neurological disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is therefore considered relatively safe. In Pereira's ongoing clinical trial, patients with Alzheimer's disease have thus far been treated with either the drug or a placebo, and have been undergoing tests to help determine whether their brain functions have been improved.

"We hope to use a medication to break the cycle of toxicity by which glutamate can damage the neurons that use it as a neurotransmitter, and our studies so far suggest that riluzole may be able to accomplish this," Pereira says. "We found that in addition to recovering the expression of EAAT2, the drug restored genes critical for neural communication and plasticity, both of which decline with aging and even more significantly in Alzheimer's disease."

The findings also help to lay the groundwork for further study of glutamate transporters as potential targets for treating both conditions.

Media Contact

Katherine Fenz


Katherine Fenz | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: genes genetic changes glutamate memory loss neurons riluzole

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>