Psoriasis medication could be used to treat people with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.
A drug that has been approved for treatment of the skin disorder has been found to stimulate the activity of the enzyme ADAM10 in the brain of Alzheimer's patients.
Evidence obtained from basic research suggests that this enzyme should be capable of suppressing Alzheimer's disease-related effects such as impaired cerebral function and that it might improve learning and memory capacity in patients.
The new study was carried out at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and is published in the journal Neurology.
While there is currently no consensus over what triggers late-onset Alzheimer's - the most common form of the disease - the activity of certain enzymes called secretases is thought to play a role.
These enzymes cleave proteins on cell membranes and release the products into the extracellular space.
Alzheimer's causes the increased cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein by beta-secretase, leading to the formation of amyloid-beta peptides. These aggregate, damage nerve cells and form the main component of the Alzheimer's plaques that accumulate in the brains of patients.
Alpha-secretase ADAM10 is a competitor of beta-secretase. It cleaves the amyloid precursor protein in a way that prevents the synthesis of amyloid beta-peptides, while the growth factor APPs-alpha, which protects nerve cells, is released.
Working in collaboration with a team at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Rostock, the researchers found that the oral administration of a psoriasis medication in a group of Alzheimer's patients results in elevated levels of APPs-alpha in their spinal fluid.
This was interpreted as a stimulation of the activity of the alpha-secretase ADAM10, which in turn would lead to the reduced accumulation of Alzheimer's plaques.
ADAM10 has been found to enhance learning and memory capacity in animal models of the disease and was well-tolerated by the patients in the study.
The team is carrying out further investigations to determine whether the substance is viable as a long-term Alzheimer's treatment, after which clinical trials will be undertaken.
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