Alzheimer's disease is a devastating neurological disorder that affects more than 37 million people worldwide. The economic burden of Alzheimer's disease is massive; in the United States alone, the estimated direct and indirect annual cost of patient care is at least $100 billion. Current FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer's disease do not prevent or reverse the disease, and provide only modest symptomatic benefits. Driven by the clear unmet medical need and a growing understanding of the molecular pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease, the number of agents in development has increased dramatically in recent years. Truly *disease-modifying' therapies that target the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease have now reached late stages of human clinical trials. Primary targets include beta-amyloid, whose presence and accumulation in the brain is thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease, and tau protein which, when hyperphosphorylated, results in the self-assembly of tangles of paired helical filaments also believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. In this review, we briefly discuss the current status of Alzheimer's disease therapies under study, as well the scientific context in which they have been developed.
Statins are widely used to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol biosynthesis. Some evidence has indicated that statins might have therapeutic and preventive benefits for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We and others also have shown the beneficial effect of statin treatment in reversing learning and memory deficits in animal models of AD. However, data from clinical trials are inconclusive. We previously documented that the adenovirus vector encoding 11 tandem repeats of Aβ1-6 fused to the receptor-binding domain (Ia) of Pseudomonas exotoxin A, AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11, is effective in inducing an immune response against amyloid-β protein (Aβ) and reducing brain Aβ load in Alzheimer’s mouse models. In the present study, we examined whether the administration of simvastatin can modulate immune and behavioral responses of C57BL/6 mice to vaccination. Simvastatin was given to the animals as a diet admixture for four weeks, followed by nasal vaccination with AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11 once per week for four weeks. The cholesterol-lowering action of simvastatin was monitored by measuring the cholesterol levels in plasma. Simvastatin significantly increased the number of the mice responding to vaccination compared with the mice receiving only AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11. Immunoglobulin isotyping revealed that the vaccination predominantly induced Th2 immune responses. Simvastatin treatment prevented Aβ-induced production of IFN-γ in splenocytes. The adenovirus vaccination altered mouse behavior in T- and elevated plus-maze tests and simvastatin counteracted such behavioral changes. Our results indicate that simvastatin clearly enhances the immune responses of C57BL/6 mice to the nasal vaccination with AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11. Simvastatin may be effective in preventing behavioral changes associated with vaccination.
adenovirus; statins; sickness behavior; anxiety; Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) are associated with a marked reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia characterized by the accumulation of amyloid plaques containing the amyloid-β protein (Aβ). Studies of the effects of NSAIDs upon the inflammatory response surrounding amyloid plaques and upon the generation of Aβ from the amyloid precursor protein (APP) have led to two proposed mechanisms by which NSAIDs may protect against Alzheimer’s disease: one, the selective lowering of Aβ42 by a subset of NSAIDs; and two, the reduction of inflammation. Although Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder of brain and synaptic function, the effects of NSAIDs on Aβ-mediated suppression of synaptic plasticity and memory function have never been reported. We therefore investigated how three different NSAIDs, chosen for their distinct effects on Aβ42 production and the inhibition of the cyclooxygenase (COX) isoenzymes, COX-1 and COX-2, affect memory function and synaptic plasticity. By focusing upon brain and synapse function, we made novel observations about the effects of NSAIDs on Aβ-mediated neural processes. Here we report that the selective inhibition of COX-2, but not COX-1, acutely prevented the suppression of hippocampal long-term plasticity (LTP) by Aβ. The non-selective NSAIDs, ibuprofen and naproxen, and a selective COX-2 inhibitor, MF-tricyclic, each restored memory function in Tg2576 mice over-expressing APP, and also blocked Aβ-mediated inhibition of LTP. There was no advantage of ibuprofen, a selective Aβ42-lowering agent (SALA), over the non-SALAs, naproxen and MF-tricyclic. The beneficial effects on memory did not depend upon lowered levels of Aβ42 or the inflammatory cytokines, tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and interleukin 1β (IL-1β). Intriguingly, improved memory function was inversely related to prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) levels. Conversely, exogenous PGE2 prevented the restorative effects of COX-2 inhibitors on LTP. The data indicate that the inhibition of COX-2 blocks Aβ-mediated suppression of LTP and memory function, and that this block occurs independently of reductions in Aβ42 or decreases in inflammation. The results lead us to propose a third possible mechanism by which NSAIDs may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, involving the blockade of a COX-2-mediated PGE2 response at synapses.
NSAIDs; inflammation; transgenic; memory; synaptic plasticity
Midlife cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes, hypertension, dyslipemia, and an unhealthy lifestyle, have been linked to subsequent incidence, delay of onset, and progression rate of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia. Conversely, optimal treatment of cardiovascular risk factors prevents and slows down age-related cognitive disorders. The impact of antihypertensive therapy on cognitive outcome in patients with hypertension was assessed in large trials which demonstrated a reduction in progression of MRI white matter hyperintensities, in cognitive decline and in incidence of dementia. Large-scale database correlated statin use and reduction in the incidence of dementia, mainly in patients with documented atherosclerosis, but clinical trials failed to reach similar conclusions.
Whether a multitargeted intervention would substantially improve protection, quality of life, and reduce medical cost expenditures in patients with lower risk profile has not been ascertained. This would require appropriately designed trials targeting large populations and focusing on cognitive decline as a primary outcome endpoint.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the largest cause of dementia, affecting 35.6 million people in 2010. Amyloid precursor protein, presenilin 1 and presenilin 2 mutations are known to cause familial early-onset AD, whereas apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 is a susceptibility gene for late-onset AD. The genes for phosphatidylinositol-binding clathrin assembly protein, clusterin and complement receptor 1 have recently been described by genome-wide association studies as potential risk factors for late-onset AD. Also, a genome association study using single neucleotide polymorphisms has identified an association of neuronal sortilin related receptor and late-onset AD. Gene testing, and also predictive gene testing, may be of benefit in suspected familial early-onset AD however it adds little to the diagnosis of late-onset AD and does not alter the treatment. We do not recommend APOE ε4 genotyping.
Alzheimer's disease; gene testing.
Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common form of dementia in the elderly. It is clinically characterized by impairment of cognitive functions, as well as changes in personality, behavioral disturbances and an impaired ability to perform activities of daily living. To date, there are no effective ways to cure or reverse the disease. Genetic studies of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease cases revealed causative mutations in the genes encoding β-amyloid precursor protein and the γ-secretase-complex components presenilin-1 and presenilin-2, supporting an important role of β-amyloid in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Compromised function of the choroid plexus and defective cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover, with diminished clearance of β-amyloid, may play an important role in late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease. If reduced cerebrospinal fluid turnover is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, then therapeutic strategies to improve cerebrospinal fluid flow are reasonable. However, the role of deficient cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in Alzheimer’s disease and the relevance of choroidal proteins as potential therapeutic targets to enhance cerebrospinal fluid turnover have received relatively little research attention. In this paper, we discuss several choroidal proteins, such as Na+-K+ ATPase, carbonic anhydrase, and aquaporin 1, that may be targets for pharmacological up-regulation of cerebrospinal fluid formation. The search for potentially beneficial drugs useful to ameliorate Alzheimer’s disease by facilitating cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover may be an important area for future research. However, the ultimate utility of such modulators in the management of Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined. Here, we hypothesize that caffeine, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, may be an attractive therapeutic candidate for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease since long-term caffeine consumption may augment cerebrospinal fluid production. Other potential mechanisms of cognitive protection by caffeine have been suggested by recent studies.
Alzheimer’s disease; aquaporin 1; caffeine; carbonic anhydrase II; cerebrospinal fluid pressure; cerebrospinal fluid production; choroid plexus; intracranial pressure; Na+-K+ ATPase; SLC4A10
Statins are a class of medications that reduce cholesterol by inhibiting 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase. Whether statins can benefit patients with dementia remains unclear because of conflicting results. We hypothesized that some of the confusion in the literature might arise from differences in efficacy of different statins. We used a large database to compare the action of several different statins to investigate whether some statins might be differentially associated with a reduction in the incidence of dementia and Parkinson's disease.
We analyzed data from the decision support system of the US Veterans Affairs database, which contains diagnostic, medication and demographic information on 4.5 million subjects. The association of lovastatin, simvastatin and atorvastatin with dementia was examined with Cox proportional hazard models for subjects taking statins compared with subjects taking cardiovascular medications other than statins, after adjusting for covariates associated with dementia or Parkinson's disease.
We observed that simvastatin is associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of dementia in subjects ≥65 years, using any of three models. The first model incorporated adjustment for age, the second model included adjusted for three known risk factors for dementia, hypertension, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, and the third model incorporated adjustment for the Charlson index, which is an index that provides a broad assessment of chronic disease. Data were obtained for over 700000 subjects taking simvastatin and over 50000 subjects taking atorvastatin who were aged >64 years. Using model 3, the hazard ratio for incident dementia for simvastatin and atorvastatin are 0.46 (CI 0.44–0.48, p < 0.0001) and 0.91 (CI 0.80–1.02, p = 0.11), respectively. Lovastatin was not associated with a reduction in the incidence of dementia. Simvastatin also exhibited a reduced hazard ratio for newly acquired Parkinson's disease (HR 0.51, CI 0.4–0.55, p < 0.0001).
Simvastatin is associated with a strong reduction in the incidence of dementia and Parkinson's disease, whereas atorvastatin is associated with a modest reduction in incident dementia and Parkinson's disease, which shows only a trend towards significance.
The vast majority of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) cases are late-onset and their development is likely influenced by both genetic and environmental risk factors. A strong genetic risk factor for late-onset AD is the presence of the ε4 allele of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, which encodes a protein with crucial roles in cholesterol metabolism. Mounting evidence demonstrates that apoE4 contributes to AD pathogenesis by modulating the metabolism and aggregation of amyloid-β peptide and by directly regulating brain lipid metabolism and synaptic functions through apoE receptors. Emerging knowledge on the contribution of apoE to the pathophysiology of AD presents new opportunities for AD therapy.
Ample evidence exists in support of the potent anti-inflammatory properties of statins. In cell studies and animal models statins exert beneficial cardiovascular effects. By inhibiting intracellular isoprenoids formation, statins suppress vascular and myocardial inflammation, favorably modulate vascular and myocardial redox state and improve nitric oxide bioavailability. Randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that further to their lipid lowering effects, statins are useful in the primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) due to their anti-inflammatory potential. The landmark JUPITER trial suggested that in subjects without CHD, suppression of low-grade inflammation by statins improves clinical outcome. However, recent trials have failed to document any clinical benefit with statins in high risk groups, such in heart failure or chronic kidney disease patients. In this review, we aim to summarize the existing evidence on statins as an anti-inflammatory agent in atherogenesis. We describe the molecular mechanisms responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of statins, as well as clinical data on the non lipid-lowering, anti-inflammatory effects of statins on cardiovascular outcomes. Lastly, the controversy of the recent large randomized clinical trials and the issue of statin withdrawal are also discussed.
Atherosclerosis; statins; inflammation; coronary heart disease; heart failure; outcome; endothelial nitric oxide synthase; vascular redox.
The neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD) include “positive” lesions such as amyloid plaques and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, neurofibrillary tangles, and glial responses, and “negative” lesions such as neuronal and synaptic loss. Despite their inherently cross-sectional nature, postmortem studies have enabled the staging of the progression of both amyloid and tangle pathologies, and, consequently, the development of diagnostic criteria that are now used worldwide. In addition, clinicopathological correlation studies have been crucial to generate hypotheses about the pathophysiology of the disease, by establishing that there is a continuum between “normal” aging and AD dementia, and that the amyloid plaque build-up occurs primarily before the onset of cognitive deficits, while neurofibrillary tangles, neuron loss, and particularly synaptic loss, parallel the progression of cognitive decline. Importantly, these cross-sectional neuropathological data have been largely validated by longitudinal in vivo studies using modern imaging biomarkers such as amyloid PET and volumetric MRI.
Amyloid plaque build-up occurs primarily before the onset of cognitive deficits. Neurofibrillary tangles, neuron loss, and synaptic loss parallel the progression of cognitive decline.
Lowering cholesterol is associated with reduced CNS amyloid deposition and increased dietary cholesterol increases amyloid accumulation in animal studies. Epidemiologic data suggest that use of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) may decrease the risk of Alzheimer disease (AD) and a single-site trial suggested possible benefit in cognition with statin treatment in AD, supporting the hypothesis that statin therapy is useful in the treatment of AD.
To determine if the lipid-lowering agent simvastatin slows the progression of symptoms in AD.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of simvastatin was conducted in individuals with mild to moderate AD and normal lipid levels. Participants were randomly assigned to receive simvastatin, 20 mg/day, for 6 weeks then 40 mg per day for the remainder of 18 months or identical placebo. The primary outcome was the rate of change in the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale–cognitive portion (ADAS-Cog). Secondary outcomes measured clinical global change, cognition, function, and behavior.
A total of 406 individuals were randomized: 204 to simvastatin and 202 to placebo. Simvastatin lowered lipid levels but had no effect on change in ADAS-Cog score or the secondary outcome measures. There was no evidence of increased adverse events with simvastatin treatment.
Simvastatin had no benefit on the progression of symptoms in individuals with mild to moderate AD despite significant lowering of cholesterol.
Classification of evidence:
This study provides Class I evidence that simvastatin 40 mg/day does not slow decline on the ADAS-Cog.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by abnormal elevation of Aβ peptide and abnormal hyperphosphorylation of the tau protein. The “amyloid hypothesis,” which is based on molecular defects observed in autosomal-dominant early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD), suggests a serial model of causality, whereby elevation of Aβ drives other disease features including tau hyperphosphorylation. Here, we review recent evidence from drug trials, genetic studies, and experimental work in animal models that suggests that an alternative model might exist in late-onset AD (LOAD), the complex and more common form of the disease. Specifically, we hypothesize a “dual pathway” model of causality, whereby Aβ and tau can be linked by separate mechanisms driven by a common upstream driver. This model may account for the results of recent drug trials and, if confirmed, may guide future drug development.
Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) plays a key part in lipid metabolism both in the liver, and in the CNS. To clarify the association of ApoE polymorphism with Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia in Japan, 13 patients with early onset (age > or = 65) sporadic Alzheimer's disease, 40 patients with late onset (age < or = 65) sporadic Alzheimer's disease, 19 patients with vascular dementia, and 49 non-demented control subjects were analysed. The results showed a significantly increased frequency of the epsilon 4 allele in the patients with late onset sporadic Alzheimer's disease (0.25), but not in the patients with early onset sporadic Alzheimer's disease (0.04) or in the patients with vascular dementia (0.13) compared with controls (0.09). The raised frequency of the epsilon 4 allele in the patients with late onset sporadic Alzheimer's disease was of a lower magnitude than that in United States and Canadian studies. This may in part be due to a lower epsilon 4 frequency in the normal Japanese population and reflect the lower morbidity from Alzheimer's disease in Japan.
Genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may be conferred by the susceptibility polymorphism apolipoprotein E (APOE), where the ε4 allele increases the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease but is not a definitive predictor of the disease, or by autosomal dominant mutations (e.g., the presenilins), which almost inevitably result in early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose of this study was to compare the psychological impact of using these two different types of genetic information to disclose genetic risk for AD to family members of affected patients.
Data were compared from two separate protocols. The Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s Disease (REVEAL) Study is a randomized, multi-site clinical trial that evaluated the impact of susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease with APOE in 101 adult children of Alzheimer’s disease patients. A separate study, conducted at the University of Washington, assessed the impact of deterministic genetic testing by disclosing presenilin-1, presenilin-2, or TAU genotype to 22 individuals at risk for familial Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia. In both protocols, participants received genetic counseling and completed the Impact of Event Scale (IES), a measure of test-specific distress. Scores were analyzed at the time point closest to one year post-disclosure at which IES data were available. The role of genetic test result (positive vs. negative) and type of genetic testing (deterministic vs. susceptibility) in predicting log-transformed IES scores was assessed with linear regression, controlling for age, gender, and time from disclosure.
Subjects from the REVEAL Study who learned that they were positive for the susceptibility gene APOE ε4+ experienced similar, low levels of test-specific distress compared to those who received positive results of deterministic testing in the University of Washington study (p= 0.78). APOE ε4+ individuals in the susceptibility protocol experienced more test-specific distress than those who tested ε4− in the same study (p= 0.04); however, among those receiving deterministic test disclosure, the subjects who received positive results did not experience significantly higher levels of distress when compared to those who received negative results (p= 0.88).
The findings of this preliminary study, with limited sample size, suggest that the test-related distress experienced by those receiving positive results for a deterministic mutation is similar to the distress experienced by those receiving positive results from genetic susceptibility testing, and that the majority of participants receiving genotype disclosure do not experience clinically significant distress as indicated by IES scores one year after learning of their test results.
genetic susceptibility testing; deterministic testing; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE; genetic counseling
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by episodic memory impairment that often precedes clinical diagnosis by many years. Probing the mechanisms of such impairment may provide much needed means of diagnosis and therapeutic intervention at an early, pre-dementia, stage. Prior to the onset of significant neurodegeneration, the structural and functional integrity of synapses in mnemonic circuitry is severely compromised in the presence of amyloidosis. This review examines recent evidence evaluating the role of amyloid-ß protein (Aβ) in causing rapid disruption of synaptic plasticity and memory impairment. We evaluate the relative importance of different sizes and conformations of Aβ, including monomer, oligomer, protofibril and fibril. We pay particular attention to recent controversies over the relevance to the pathophysiology of AD of different water soluble Aβ aggregates and the importance of cellular prion protein in mediating their effects. Current data are consistent with the view that both low-n oligomers and larger soluble assemblies present in AD brain, some of them via a direct interaction with cellular prion protein, cause synaptic memory failure. At the two extremes of aggregation, monomers and fibrils appear to act in vivo both as sources and sinks of certain metastable conformations of soluble aggregates that powerfully disrupt synaptic plasticity. The same principle appears to apply to other synaptotoxic amyloidogenic proteins including tau, α-synuclein and prion protein.
Amyloidogenic proteins; Long-term potentiation; Long-term depression; Alzheimer’s disease; Neurodegenerative diseases; α-synuclein oligomers; PrP oligomers
Statins inhibit the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, which is required for cholesterol biosynthesis, and are beneficial in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Most of the benefits of statin therapy are owing to the lowering of serum cholesterol levels. However, by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, statins can also inhibit the synthesis of isoprenoids, which are important lipid attachments for intracellular signaling molecules, such as Rho, Rac and Cdc42. Therefore, it is possible that statins might exert cholesterol-independent or ‘pleiotropic’ effects through direct inhibition of these small GTP-binding proteins. Recent studies have shown that statins might have important roles in diseases that are not mediated by cholesterol. Here, we review data from recent clinical trials that support the concept of statin pleiotropy and provide a rationale for their clinical importance.
A plethora of in vitro and in vivo studies have supported the neuroprotective role of estrogens and their impact on the neurotransmitter systems implicated in cognition. Recent hormonal replacement therapy trials in non-demented post-menopausal women suggest a temporary positive effect (notably on verbal memory), and four meta-analyses converge to suggest a possible protective effect in relation to Alzheimer’s disease (reducing risk by 29 to 44%). However, data from the only large randomized controlled trial published to date, the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, did not confirm these observations and have even suggested an increase in dementia risk for women using hormonal replacement therapy compared to controls. Apart from methodological differences, one key short-coming of this trial has probably been the focus on late-onset (postmenopausal) hormonal changes, i.e. at a time when the neurodegenerative process has already begun and without taking into account individual lifetime exposure to hormone variability. Multifactorial models based on an exhaustive view of all hormonal events throughout the reproductive life (rather than on a specific exposure to a given steroid) together with other risk factors (notably genetic risk factors related to estrogen receptor polymorphisms) should be explored to clarify the role of hormonal risk factors, or protective factors for cognitive dysfunction and dementia.
Administration, Cutaneous; Aged; Alzheimer Disease; diagnosis; drug therapy; prevention & control; Cognition Disorders; diagnosis; drug therapy; prevention & control; Estradiol; administration & dosage; therapeutic use; Estrogen Replacement Therapy; methods; Estrogens; administration & dosage; therapeutic use; Estrogens, Conjugated (USP); therapeutic use; Female; Humans; Memory Disorders; diagnosis; drug therapy; prevention & control; Middle Aged; Neuroprotective Agents; administration & dosage; therapeutic use; Progestins; therapeutic use; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; statistics & numerical data; Receptors, Estrogen; genetics; Research Design; standards; trends; Severity of Illness Index; Treatment Outcome; Cognition; equine estrogens; transdermal estradiol; estrogen receptor; lifetime hormonal status; observation study; randomized controlled trial
To investigate possible differences in pupil dilation and light reflex in Alzheimer’s disease patients that can be attributed to the age of onset of the disease, a statistical comparison was made of pupil dilation and light reflex among early- and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, and patients with vascular dementia, and normal controls. The subjects included 53 probable Alzheimer’s disease outpatients, including both early-onset type (AD: n=21) and late-onset type (SD: n=32). They were compared with normal controls (n=15), Down syndrome patients (DS: n=6), and patients with vascular dementia (VD: n=9). All subjects and controls were dark-eyed Japanese. Pupil dilation and light reflex were tested in 21 AD and 32 SD patients, and were compared with those in the control subjects; 6 DS and 9 VD patients. The measured maximum increase in pupil diameter after instilling a mixture of anticholinergic and α -adrenergic stimulating drugs (Midrin-P®), in one eye was significantly greater in AD and DS than in the controls. However, there was no difference among SD, VD, and controls, suggesting a stronger pupil response to these drugs in AD than in SD. Pupil movement in response to light became significantly smaller and faster after instillation of the drugs in Alzheimer’s disease patients. The above findings may be useful for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease; Down syndrome; pupil; tropicamide; light reflex
Studies of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in rheumatoid arthritis imply that inflammation is important in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, these drugs have not alleviated the symptoms of AD in those who have already developed dementia. This suggests that the primary mediator targeted by these drugs, PGE2, is not actively suppressing memory function in AD. Amyloid-β oligomers appear to be important for the mild cognitive changes seen in AD transgenic mice, yet amyloid immunotherapy has also proven unsuccessful in clinical trials. Collectively, these findings indicate that NSAIDs may target a prodromal process in mice that has already passed in those diagnosed with AD, and that synaptic and neuronal loss are key determinants of cognitive dysfunction in AD. While the role of inflammation has not yet become clear, inflammatory processes definitely have a negative impact on cognitive function during episodes of delirium during dementia. Delirium is an acute and profound impairment of cognitive function frequently occurring in aged and demented patients exposed to systemic inflammatory insults, which is now recognised to contribute to long-term cognitive decline. Recent work in animal models is beginning to shed light on the interactions between systemic inflammation and CNS pathology in these acute exacerbations of dementia. This review will assess the role of prostaglandin synthesis in the memory impairments observed in dementia and delirium and will examine the relative contribution of amyloid, synaptic and neuronal loss. We will also discuss how understanding the role of inflammatory mediators in delirious episodes will have major implications for ameliorating the rate of decline in the demented population.
Dementia; Delirium; Cyclooxygenase; Prostaglandin; Microglia; Memory; Learning; Alzheimer’s disease
Structural brain changes appear years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia late in life. Determining risk factors for such presymptomatic brain changes may assist in identifying candidates for future prevention treatment trials. In addition to the e4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE-4), the major known genetic risk factor, a family history of Alzheimer’s disease also increases the risk to develop the disease, reflecting yet unidentified genetic and, perhaps, nongenetic risks. The authors investigated the influence of APOE-4 genotype and family history risks on cortical thickness in medial temporal lobe subregions among volunteers without cognitive impairment.
High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a cortical unfolding method were performed on 26 subjects (APOE-4 carriers: N =13; noncarriers: N =13) with at least one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease and 25 subjects (APOE-4 carriers: N =12; noncarriers: N =13) without this risk factor. All subjects (mean age: 62.3 years [SD=10.7]; range=38–86 years) were cognitively healthy.
Family history of Alzheimer’s disease and APOE-4 status were associated with a thinner cortex in the entorhinal region, subiculum, and adjacent medial temporal lobe subfields. Although these associations were additive, family history of Alzheimer’s disease explained a greater proportion of the unique variance in cortical thickness than APOE-4 carrier status.
APOE-4 carrier status and family history of Alzheimer’s disease are independently associated with and contribute additively to hippocampal cortical thinning.
Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of dementia in elderly people and is becoming an ever greater problem as societies worldwide age. Treatments that stop or at least effectively modify disease course do not yet exist. In Alzheimer’s disease, the conversion of the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) from a physiological water-soluble monomeric form into neurotoxic oligomeric and fibrillar forms rich in stable β-sheet conformations is an important event. The most toxic forms of Aβ are thought to be oligomers, and dimers might be the smallest neurotoxic species. Numerous immunological approaches that prevent the conversion of the normal precursor protein into pathological forms or that accelerate clearance are in development. More than ten new approaches to active and passive immunotherapy are under investigation in clinical trials with the aim of producing safe methods for immunological therapy and prevention. A delicate balance between immunological clearance of an endogenous protein with acquired toxic properties and the induction of an autoimmune reaction must be found.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by the accumulation and extensive deposition of amyloid beta in the parenchyma of the brain. This accumulation of amyloid is associated with perturbations in synaptic function, impairments in energy metabolism and induction of a chronic inflammatory response, which acts to promote neuronal loss and cognitive impairment.
Currently, there are no drugs that target the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease. Here, we propose that a class of nuclear receptors are novel and promising new therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease. This review summarizes the literature on nuclear receptors and their effects on AD-related pathophysiology.
Nuclear receptors are attractive targets for the treatment of AD due to their ability to facilitate degradation of Aβ, affect microglial activation and suppress the inflammatory milieu of the brain. LXR agonists have proven difficult to move into clinical trials since long-term treatment results in hepatic steatosis. It is our view that PPARɣ activation remains a promising avenue for the treatment for AD, however, the poor BBB permeability of the currently available agonists and the negative outcome of the phase III clinical trials are likely to diminish interest in pursuing this target.
Alzheimer’s disease; Liver X Receptors; Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors; Retinoid X Receptor; ApoE; Inflammation; Microglia
Importance of the field
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, and there is no disease-modifying therapy yet available. Immunotherapy directed against the β-amyloid peptide may be capable of slowing the rate of disease progression. Bapineuzumab, an anti–β-amyloid monoclonal antibody, will be the first such agent to emerge from Phase III clinical trials.
Areas covered in this review
The primary literature on bapineuzumab from 2009–2010 is reviewed in its entirety, along with the literature on AN1792, a first-generation anti–β-amyloid vaccine, from 2003–2009. Other Alzheimer’s disease immunotherapeutics currently in development, according to www.clinicaltrials.gov, are also discussed.
What the reader will gain
In addition to a critical appraisal of the Phase II trial results for bapineuzumab, this review considers the broader field of immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s disease as a whole, including the challenges ahead.
Take home message
Bapineuzumab appears capable of reducing the cerebral β-amyloid peptide burden in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, particularly in APOE ε4 carriers, its ability to slow disease progression remains uncertain, and vasogenic edema — a dose-limiting and potentially severe adverse reaction — may limit its clinical applicability.
Alzheimer’s disease; β-amyloid peptide (amyloid-β Aβ); Bapineuzumab; Immunotherapy (immunization); Monoclonal antibody; Vasogenic edema
Understanding of the pathophysiological basis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is increasing rapidly and a variety of potential treatment modalities have emerged based on these improved mechanistic insights. The optimal way of proceeding with disease-modifying drug development remains to be clarified and controversies have emerged regarding the definition of Alzheimer’s disease, the participation of mild cognitive impairment patients in clinical trials, the definition of disease modification, the potential impediments to satisfaction from patients receiving disease-modifying therapy, the importance of add-on therapy with symptomatic agents, the optimal clinical trial design to demonstrate disease modification, the best means of minimizing time spent in Phase II of drug development, the potential role of adaptive designs in clinical trials, the use of enrichment designs in clinical trials, the role of biomarkers in clinical trials, the treatment of advanced patients with disease-modifying agents, and distinctions between disease modification and disease prevention. The questions surrounding these issues must be resolved as disease-modifying therapies for AD are advanced. These controversies are framed and potential directions towards resolution described.
Lipid lowering agents, such as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors or statins, have been shown to reduce cardiovascular events. However, growing evidence from recent clinical trials suggest that some of the beneficial effects of statins may be unrelated to changes in LDL-C. In animal studies, many of the cholesterol-independent or “pleiotropic” effects of statins are mediated by inhibition of Rho kinase (ROCK). Indeed, ROCK has been implicated in the regulation of vascular tone, proliferation, inflammation, and oxidative stress. To what extent ROCK activity is inhibited in patients on lipid lowering therapy, in particular, statins, is not known, but may have important clinical and therapeutic implications. This review will attempt to make the case that, in addition to lipid lowering, inhibition of ROCK contributes to some of the benefits of statin therapy in patients with cardiovascular disease.