Penn Study Gives Hope for New Class of Alzheimer’s Disease Drugs

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Media Contact:Karen Kreeger | karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-5658October 18, 2010

Finding a drug that can cross the blood-brain barrier is the bane of drug development for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders of the brain. A new Penn study, published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found and tested in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease a class of drug that is able to enter the brain, where it stabilizes degenerating neurons and improves memory and learning.

In the normal brain, the protein tau plays an important role in stabilizing structures called microtubules in nerve cells, which serve as tracks upon which cellular material is transported. In Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, tau becomes insoluble and forms clumps in the brain. One consequence of these aggregates is a depletion of normal tau, resulting in destabilization of the microtubule tracks that are critical for proper nerve-cell function.

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