Discovery could lead to memory pill for Alzheimer's patients

PKR is an immune molecule whose increase appears to signal to the brain the onset of viral infections. But its suppression in mice improved their memory, researchers have found.

Could the same thing work in Alzheimer's disease patients? The Baylor College of Medicine and McGill University scientists seem to think so, and see their new finding potentially leading to a "memory pill" that would block PKR production. The Vancouver Sun highlights the finding, which was published recently in the journal Cell.

The key thing here to consider is the finding involves mice. These discoveries can't always be repeated in people, although as the Sun explains to readers, there is some potential to help Alzheimer's patients because PKR is triggered in their brains, too (Alzheimer's is a form of stress, after all). PKR is important because it affects processes such as the way neurons communicate with each other to manage memory, but also is produced during a number of stresses, researcher John Bell told the Sun.

Researchers injected a PKR inhibitor in the stomachs of some of the mice they studied. This spurred the gamma interferon immune molecule to increase its activity, which was the key to helping the mice improve their memory and make their brain function more efficiently.

The Baylor/McGill researchers told the Sun that a pill version of their drug could be ready within a few years, depending on funding and another lab continuing the research into clinical trials.

Their finding is the latest in a series of recent research discoveries illustrating advances in early-stage Alzheimer's research. Scientists at the University of California-Los Angeles, for example, think they may have found a way to restore memory through two drugs tested in older rats. One increased histone acetylation on hippocampal tissue, which restored production of brain-derived neurotropic factor to more youthful levels. The other drug restored synaptic plasticity. And scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have designed antibodies that neutralize the amyloid protein that leads to Alzheimer's disease.

Big Pharma, however, has pulled back from some neuroscience-related drug development efforts.

The Baylor/McGill researchers told the Sun that a pill version of their drug could be ready within a few years, depending on funding and another lab continuing the research into clinical trials.

- here's The Vancouver Sun story
- read the abstract in Cell

Related Articles:
Drug appears to beat back age-related brain cell changes, UCLA researchers find
Antibody may help fight Alzheimer's
Eli Lilly bulks up in Ireland

Suggested Articles

Compass' CD137 agonist cleared large tumors in mice that other I-O agents had failed to treat. It's advancing the drug into phase 1 human trials.

UPMC researchers are planning clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine that uses pieces of the virus' spike protein to create immunity.

Treating mice with niacin increased the number of immune cells in glioblastomas, reducing tumor size and extending survival.