New York Times (September 1, 2010): Finding Suggests New Target for Alzheimer's Drugs

Publication Date: 
Wed, 09/01/2010

In a year when news about Alzheimer's disease seems to whipsaw between encouraging and disheartening, a new discovery by an 84-year-old scientist has illuminated a new direction.

The scientist, Paul Greengard, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work on signaling in brain cells, still works in his Rockefellar University lab in New York City seven days a week, walking there from his apartment two blocks away, taking his aging Bernese mountain dog, Alpha.

He got interested in Alzheimer’s about 25 years ago when his wife’s father developed it, and his research is now supported by a philanthropic foundation that was started solely to allow him to study the disease.

It was mostly these funds and federal government grants that allowed him to find a new protein that is needed to make beta amyloid, which makes up the telltale plaque that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

The finding, to be published Thursday in the journal Nature, reveals a new potential drug target that, according to the prevailing hypothesis of the genesis of Alzheimer’s, could slow or halt the devastating effects of this now untreatable disease.

The work involves laboratory experiments and studies with mice - it is far from ready for the doctor’s office. But researchers, still reeling from the announcement two weeks ago by Eli Lilly that its experimental drug turned out to make Alzheimer’s worse, not better, were encouraged.

“This really is a new approach,” said Dr. Paul Aisen, of the University of California, San Diego. “The work is very strong and it is very convincing.” Dr. Aisen directs a program financed by the National Institute on Aging to conduct clinical trials of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.