Researchers in France have designed a new drug that is being investigated as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The study is published on Monday 25 August in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.
Scientists led by a team at the University of Caen Basse, in Normandy, began with a compound called RS67333, which mimics the effects of the chemical messenger serotonin against one of its brain receptors and which some studies have highlighted as having potential beneficial effects for memory. Its structure is also similar to an existing Alzheimer’s drug called donepezil – which helps relieve some of the symptoms of the disease by boosting levels of acetylcholine, a brain chemical that helps communication between nerve cells and is especially helpful for memory. Because of these similarities, the researchers sought to synthesise a new compound with the effects of both RS67333 and donepezil.
They created a new compound, called donecopride, which had similar actions to both RS67333 and donepezil. Further research showed that at some doses, mice that were given donecopride did better in some memory tests than mice that were not treated with the drug. The researchers hope that this new compound could hold promise as a potential treatment for people with Alzheimer’s.
Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This research has taken a different approach to drug development, producing a compound with two biological targets. This study was carried out in mice, and much more research is needed before we can know whether donecopride could have benefits for people with Alzheimer’s. One of the actions of this drug is similar to existing symptomatic treatments for Alzheimer’s, and it’s not yet clear whether the potential benefits from this compound would be greater than those provided by current treatments.
“As the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s currently affects around half a million people in the UK, and investment in research is crucial if we are to find treatments capable of stopping the disease in its tracks. For the best chance of success, we need to see many different treatment approaches being explored.”