An efficient, high-volume technique for testing potential drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease uncovered an organic compound that restored motor function and longevity to fruit flies with the disease, according to new research that could help put the search for an effective Alzheimer’s drug on a faster track.
Princeton University researchers report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that they discovered an organic compound that prevented the formation of protein clumps, or aggregates, found on human brain cells afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers realized the compound’s potential via a high-throughput – meaning many materials can be examined at once – screening process developed at Princeton that examined the ability of 65,000 molecular compounds to inhibit protein aggregation.
When administered to fruit flies bred to exhibit Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, the compound – which the researchers call D737 – restored climbing ability and increased the flies’ lifespan by several days in comparison to flies that did not receive the compound, the researchers reported.
The compound worked by stopping the accumulation of a peptide known as amyloid beta 42 (Aβ42), which disrupts cell function, is found in high quantities in Alzheimer’s plaques, and is thought to initiate the disease’s characteristic neural deterioration. The fruit flies were genetically engineered at the University of Cambridge to have human Aβ42 collect in their neurons. As in humans, this accumulation results in memory and mobility loss, disorientation and early death.