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Potential new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease identified by researchers

A new study has identified a list of existing drugs that could potentially be repurposed to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have found several drugs that target the activity of genes linked to the common neurodegenerative condition.

The findings, published in the journal Neurology Genetics®, offer a priority list of medications used for various conditions that could potentially be repurposed to alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research is still in its early stages and the drugs will need to be further validated to test their efficacy against Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Laboratory and lead researcher Eske Derks said the repurposing of existing drugs could accelerate clinical trials and allow patients to get access to new treatments sooner rather than later.

“Drug repurposing can circumvent the expensive and time-consuming process of testing and approval required to develop or bring a brand-new drug to market,” Professor Derks said.

“The drugs we’ve identified are safe and have been approved to treat other conditions. If we can repurpose them to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, we can get new drugs to patients faster.”

Dementia Australia says current Alzheimer’s disease treatments improve quality of life for some people, but they don’t stop the progress of the neurodegenerative disorder.

Previous research has identified 36 genes linked to the disease, and Professor Derks said the new study developed a new analytical approach to link genetic data with large-scale drug databases.

“A lot of patients have contributed their DNA for genetic studies and now we want to bring it back to them and use that information to find new drugs,” she said.

QIMR Berghofer researchers Dr Zachary Gerring and Associate Professor Anthony White contributed to the study, along with Dr Eric Gamazon at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr Gerring said that while further research is needed, it is promising that their analysis picked up a major approved drug already used to treat Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

“We found a certain class of compounds that contain approved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease were highly represented in our drug repurposing analysis. So this offers some validation and increases our confidence in the repurposing potential of the prioritised drug candidates,” he said.

Further experimental work is now underway at QIMR Berghofer to test whether the prioritised drugs alter the activity of relevant gene targets in a cell model of Alzheimer’s disease, under the supervision of Associate Professor Anthony White.

Professor Derks and Dr Gamazon are also leading an international research team that has received funding from the National Institute on Aging to continue their work to find more effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.