A reduction of amyloid-beta peptides, a major element of Alzheimer's disease(AD) can be observed with the help of a pramlintide, a diabetes drug.
Scientists from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) also found that pramlintide improves learning and memory and AD patients have a lower level of amylin in blood compared to those without this disease.
According to senior author Wendy Qiu, associate professor at BUSM, believes that some existing drugs for other diseases may penetrate into brain and may be effective for AD.
Unfortunately most pharmaceuticals are reluctant to support this type of repurposing research because of limited financial benefit and some patent limitation, even though the cost is much less expensive and the development time is much shortened, she added.
Using AD models, the BUSM researchers investigated the effects of amylin on the pathogenesis of the disease.
Surprisingly, injections of amylin or pramlintide into the AD models reduced the amyloid burden as well as lowered the concentrations of amyloid-beta peptides (AB), a major component of AD in the brain, Qiu explained.
Pramlintide, which is an analog of a natural occurring peptide, amylin, produced by the pancreas, can easily cross the blood/brain barrier and has shown favorable safety profile for diabetes patients, she added.
Based on their findings the researchers propose that amylin-class peptides have potential to become a new avenue as a challenge test for diagnosis of AD and as well as a therapeutic for the disease.
If the clinical trial proves the effect of pramlintide for AD, Qiu believes this drug can be applied to Alzheimer's patients in only three to five years.
The study appears online in Molecular Psychiatry.