Prana compound restores learning, memory loss in mice

Australian Prana Biotechnology has published new data showing that its metal-transporting compound PBT2 reversed memory and learning loss associated with the aging process in elderly mice.

The study, published in the journal Aging Cell, is the latest to support the drug's use for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

"It is very exciting to discover that PBT2 not only helps clear amyloid from the brain, but is promoting the birth of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is particularly affected by Alzheimer's. This now adds to the predicted beneficial properties of PBT2 for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Rudy Tanzi, Prana's chief scientific adviser, in a statement. Tanzi is a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and the vice chair of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Alzheimer's field has seen a slate of failed drugs in the clinic in recent years. Most of these drugs have been based on the amyloid hypothesis--that a buildup of certain proteins called amyloid beta causes neurodegeneration--but even drugs that have managed to clear amyloid-beta plaques from the brain have not improved cognition for patients.

While Prana's approach to treating the memory-stealing disease is also based on the amyloid hypothesis, the company's focus differs in that its lead investigational drug, PBT2, targets metals to restore neural function, specifically by preventing the interaction of synaptic zinc and copper with amyloid beta to prevent the amyloid beta from becoming toxic.

Previously, Prana reported that PBT2 increases neuronal number and synaptic density as well as significantly improves cognition in a transgenic animal model of Alzheimer's disease. These new findings are in normal old mice that have not been genetically altered to form amyloid.

PBT2 is currently being test in a Phase II trial in Alzheimer's disease and a Phase II trial in Huntington's disease. Both trials are expected to report results in the first quarter of 2014.

- here's the press release
- see the study in Aging Cell 

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