New Alzheimer‘s target discovered
Leuven/Munich – Researchers in the EU-funded Neuro.GSK3 project have determined that neuron loss in course of Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the brain’s own immune cells, the microglia (Nature Neuroscience, doi:10.1038/nn.2511). When the team, under Jochen Herms, analysed neuron loss in an Alzheimer model over a period of 1 month using two photon in vivo imaging, they found an increased number of microglial cells around lost neurons. In addition, microglia migration to the lost neuron stopped after neuron elimination and migration velocity around lost neurons was significantly higher. Knock-out of the microglial receptor Cx3cr1 which binds the signal molecule fractalkine prevented neuron loss. 'We may be able to make use of these results to develop novel agents that can slow the rate of neuron loss by interrupting communications between the two cell types,' Herms stated. However, screening after Cx3cr1 inhibitors in Alzheimer’s disease is covered by a US patent (USPTO No. 6664442) filed by Elan Pharmaceuticals on 03/30/2001 and adopted 2 years later. A European patent (EP1377590) on thiazolopyrimidine derivatives that target the Cx3cr1 receptor was also granted to Astra Zeneca in 2007.