Research led by Kurt Brunden, PhD, scientific director of theMarian S. Ware Alzheimer and Benaroya Parkinson's Disease Drug Discovery Program, may have resurrected a promising drug from therapeutic limbo. The drug epothilone D (EpoD) was originally developed as an anti-cancer agent but didn't quite live up to its original promise.  Investigators at the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research noted that EpoD was capable of readily crossing the blood-brain barrier, helping to stabilize critical cellular structures known as microtubules within nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, tau tangles disrupt the railroad-track-like microtubules, leading to an impairment of nerve cell function and health.  In a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, EpoD improved cognitive performance and prevented the formation of tau tangles in the brains of aging mice, with no side effects. The research suggested the possibility that EpoD might have similar benefits for patients with AD and other neurodegenerative diseases. Now, a drug company has enrolled AD patients in clinical trials to test the drug.
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