LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Preliminary tests of a newly-found drug for Alzheimer's disease show promising results, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) research team leader told Xinhua on Saturday.
A drug called ALI6 was tested in mouse primary neurons and researchers saw promising results, said Lin Jiang, a Chinese assistant professor of neurology.
"The next step is to test it in Alzheimer's disease model mouse," he said. It will take about one year. "After a successful animal test, we plan to move to human clinical trial."
One hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, a debilitating disorder marked by memory deficits and general cognitive decline, is a protein called b-amyloid accumulating in brain, which forms "plaques" and binds to unique proteins on the surface of brain cells, causing widespread cell death.
ALI6 can block b-amyloid plaques from attaching to brain cells and thus prevent the extensive cell death, said a UCLA news release on Monday, adding that the study was published in the journal Nature Chemistry.
Jiang worked with his team to identify the plaque binding site of b-amyloid to its receptor by determining the three-dimensional structure. Then they used computer software to assist them in the drug selection process.
"We were searching for a molecule that could block the receptor like a shield, preventing b-amyloid from binding to and killing brain cells," Jiang was quoted by the release as saying.
In order to find molecular candidates to block the interaction between b-amyloid and brain cells, the team searched more than 32 thousand molecules, and one drug, namely ALI6, showed promising results in cell-based experiments, according to the release.
Researchers cultured mouse brain cells and exposed them to the toxic b-amyloid proteins, and treated some cells with ALI6, which almost completely prevented the cell death, suggesting that the drug could eventually be explored to treat Alzheimer's disease.
"Not only is it non-toxic but it can also move from the bloodstream to the brain, a critical trait for any drug aimed at treating central nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer's disease," said the release.
Alzheimer's disease affects about 48 million people worldwide, and the number is expected to increase with the aging population. There is no effective cure yet.