Autumn 2006 / Leading Edge
Drug Provides Key to Halting Alzheimer’s Disease in Mice

Researchers discover new breakthrough in fighting Alzheimer’s disease


Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered a drug that may prevent cognitive damage and memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients.

A team led by Professor JoAnne McLaurin at U of T’s Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases has identified a substance that stops the amyloid beta peptide – which causes toxic neural damage in brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease – from accumulating. Their findings were reported in Nature Medicine.

When the researchers administered AZD-103 to mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease, they found that the drug prevents aggregates of the amyloid beta peptides from forming – thereby reducing the toxicity in the brain and preventing additional cognitive damage or memory loss. The drug was administered to mice before they began to exhibit Alzheimer’s like symptoms and after the symptoms had begun.

“This is a significant breakthrough in drug development for Alzheimer’s disease,” says McLaurin. “We have effectively demonstrated improvement in memory and pathology among mice and are cautiously optimistic that the same may hold true for human patients after formal clinical trials have been conducted.”

Based on the study’s results, Health Canada has approved the drug for Phase 1 Clinical Trials. The trials will determine whether the drug produces side-effects in healthy humans.

Nearly 800,000 Canadians will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease by 2026, according to Health Canada. The Alzheimer Society of Canada predicts the cost of caring for these people could reach $8 billion a year.


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