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New Multitarget Molecule Acts Simultaneously On Several Targets In The Brain, Boosts Cognitive Function In Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), the Spanish National Research Council () and the University of Barcelona () have developed a multitarget molecule, ASS234, which according to the results of in vitro studies conducted, inhibits the aggregation of the ß-amyloid protein, involved in Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, ASS234 stimulates the cholinergic and monoaminergic transmission, key factors involved in the cognitive function. In addition, ASS234 is able to cross the with an elevated profile designed on basis of (Aricept®), one of the few effective drugs in palliative and symptomatic treatments of the disease.

In the development of this new molecule, researchers used the strategy of “multipotent drugs”, capable of acting simultaneously on different targets in the brain involved in this neurodegenerative disease, given that the paradigm used in the design of drugs based on the strategy of “one drug, one target” has shown to be unsuitable in offering satisfactory results.

ASS234 was developed as a hybrid of two known molecules. One of them, donepezil, is currently used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and the other, PF9601N compound, is an inhibitor of the monoamino oxidase B (MAO B) enzyme, patented and developed by researchers at UAB and CSIC, with proven neuroprotective effects in different experimental models of Parkinson’s disease.

The research was directed by Mercedes Unzeta, researcher of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and of the Institute of Neurosciences (INc) at UAB, José Luis , CSIC researcher at the Institute of General Organic Chemistry (IQOG), and F. Javier Luque, researcher of the Department of Physico-Chemistry at the Faculty of Pharmacy and the Institute of Biomedicine of the UB (IBUB). All three researchers have worked for years on the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of new multipotent molecules capable of stimulating neural transmissions and at the same time having neuroprotective effects. ASS234 acts on both of these processes.

The biochemical activity and pharmacological potential of the molecule was exhaustively characterised by Irene Bolea (UAB) and synthesised by Abdelouahid Samadi (CSIC). Previous studies on the interactions of ASS234 with its possible targets were carried out by Jordi Juárez-Jiménez (UB). The ASS234 molecule has been patented by all three institutions.

This molecule could be much more efficient than other compounds used to stimulate neural transmission and simultaneously act on different brain targets. To date, in vitro investigations conducted at UAB have demonstrated that ASS234, in addition to being able to inhibit monoamino oxidases A and B, also act on the enzymes acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase, thus helping to boost levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter deficient in patients with Alzheimer’s. The latest results obtained indicate that ASS234 also reduces aggregation of the ß-amyloid protein which gives way to the appearance of senile plaques characteristic of the disease.

Other recent studies conducted by researchers of the CSIC Cajal Institute and the University of Lodz, Poland, have demonstrated that ASS234 is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and improves memory in mice.

All studies conducted to date make clear that ASS234 is a promising multitarget molecule due to its potential therapeutic effects on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. As affirmed by Dr Unzeta and Dr Marco Contelles, ASS234 “a priori appears as a derivative of donepezil, which contains not only its virtues but possesses also a potential multipotent profile drug, which could make it a more efficient drug for the treatment of this disease”.


The research on ASS234 and results obtained was recently published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona