Potential drugs for Alzheimer’s identified

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New findings from a Queensland medical research centre has found existing medications can be used to treat Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that is estimated to affect 400,000 Australians, with the disease more prevalent in older demographics.

Tuesday 21 September is world Alzheimer’s day, bringing recognition to the roughly 55 million people worldwide living with the condition, which is a form of dementia.

Research by Dr Eske Derks and Dr Zac Gerring from QIMR Berghofer found a priority list of medications used targeted the activity of genes linked to the condition can be repurposed to alleviate symptoms.

“So what we found is that these drugs target genetic risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease. So that implies that maybe they will be effective,” Dr Derks told AAP.

“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.”

Previous studies have 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.

“It’s really important that people contribute their DNA to for us to do research and what I want to do is bring back the results to improve their lives,” she said.

“It’s the first step of giving back to the people who contributed DNA for research and make some clinical use of it.

Dr Derks’ and Gerring’s early findings have been published in the journal Neurology Genetics and they say it’s 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,” Dr Gerring said.

“So this offers some validation and increases our confidence in the repurposing potential of the prioritised drug candidates.

Further experimental work is now underway to test whether the prioritised drugs alter the activity of relevant gene targets in a cell model of Alzheimer’s disease at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Institute.

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