Scientists design treatment to target memory symptoms in Alzheimer’s

29 November 2021

Researchers have designed a new drug compound – HTL9936 – that can selectively activate a protein receptor in brain nerve cells to help improve learning and memory. The scientific publication, Cell, published the results on Wednesday 24 November.

What did the research team do?

The researchers used an approach known as structure-based drug design to create a candidate drug compound. This compound was able to selectively target a specific protein r in brain nerve cells and minimise adverse effects.

In Alzheimer’s disease, nerve cells become damaged and lose their ability to communicate.

Current symptomatic drugs for Alzheimer’s, called cholinesterase inhibitors, work by increasing the amount of a chemical called acetylcholine, that helps messages to travel around the brain areas involved in learning and memory.

In this research, scientists took another approach. They designed a drug to directly activate nerve cell receptors and optimised the selective molecule to minimise side effects associated with previous attempts to target this class of receptor.

Who conducted the work?

Scientists from the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Sosei Heptares conducted the work. Dr Sophie Bradley, recipient of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year award, was one of the team involved.

What did our expert say about the results?

Dr James Connell, Head of Translational Science at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“People with dementia need treatments that can help with their symptoms including problems in learning and memory. While existing symptomatic drugs can make a difference to people’s lives, they have limited clinical benefit and patients often experience adverse side effects.

“Investigating and designing new approaches to alleviate symptoms of memory loss is necessary for people with dementia. Over the years, the receptor this drug targets has been the subject of intensive research, and it is promising to see that new technology has the potential to design new drugs that can selectively activate this target. These studies have shown positive results in lab-based studies and in older healthy adults.

“It’s encouraging to see pharmaceutical companies working in partnership with researchers based in universities to conduct meaningful and relevant drug discovery. While these early findings seem encouraging for this drug target, the drug candidate needs to tested extensively in people with Alzheimer’s disease to see if it delivers any benefit.

“If you have questions about this research, or existing treatments about Alzheimer’s disease, give our Infoline a call on 0300 111 5111 or email them at [email protected]

You can read the full paper ‘From structure to clinic: Design of a muscarinic M1 receptor agonist with potential to treatment of Alzheimer’s disease’ in Cell.

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