BEIJING, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Chinese researchers have found why cholesterol-control drug gemfibrozil and synthetic chemical pirinixic acid could be used to treat Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease (AD), the chronic disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions, has become a leading cause of death among the older people in recent years.
So far, the beta-amyloid protein is thought to play a major role in the development of AD. This protein tends to clump together to form plaques.
When a patient's brain loses the balance between the production and clearance of beta-amyloid, the plaques build up in the brain and attach themselves to neurons. The affected neurons cannot function or receive signals from other brain cells and die as a result.
Promoting the clearance of beta-amyloid is a major strategy in exploring effective treatments for AD. Autophagy, which means self-devouring, is the natural regulated mechanism in cells that disassembles unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components. Inducing autophagy to clear beta-amyloid is taken as a novel way to treat AD.
According to researchers from Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PPARA is a gene encoding a protein that is a key regulator of lipid metabolism and activates hepatic autophagy.
In the study, the Chinese researchers hypothesized that PPARA regulates autophagy in the nervous system and the autophagy mediated by the gene affects AD.
They reported on the journal Autophagy that cholesterol-control drug Gemfibrozil and synthetic chemical pirinixic acid are PPARA agonist. The findings show that the two made some glial cells accumulate around beta-amyloid plaques in mice and their autophagy function has been enhanced.
Glial cells are non-neuron cells in the nervous system providing support and protection for neurons.
Meanwhile, the memory and learning ability of the mice were also improved.
The researchers said their study shows PPARA is an important factor regulating autophagy in the clearance of beta-amyloid, and gemfibrozil, which has been prescribed to control cholesterol since 1976, could be assessed as a possible treatment for AD.