After years of preparation and anticipation, scientists who discover and develop new medications are about to answer a key question about Alzheimer’s disease: Will drugs that block formation of abnormal clumps of protein in the brain called amyloid-beta slow the progression of the devastating disease? The cover story in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine, assesses the scientific foundation and clinical landscape of those amyloid-beta blockers.
C&EN Senior Editor Lisa Jarvis notes that amyloid-beta is at the heart of a central hypothesis — and simmering controversy — about Alzheimer’s disease. Some scientists are convinced that amyloid-beta is the root cause of the nerve-cell death and subsequent mental decline in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Others think that something else, perhaps a still-unidentified environmental neurotoxin, is the real culprit. That mystery agent, they suspect, triggers formation of beta-amyloid.
If the clinical trials are successful, doctors within 5-10 years could have an arsenal of new drugs that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. If the trials fail, it’s back to the drawing board to find new hypothesis and drug targets for the disease, the article notes.