Alzheimer’s in Mice: Drug-reversible?

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Within the journal Science, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health scientists confirm that a study performed on mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease had significantly improved brain function and memory capabilities after being treated with an anti-cancer drug.

The cancer drug, known as bexarotene, has previously been studied and used for the treatment cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma.  Through this study, bexarotene has been shown to drastically improve the level of cognition within mice that express gene mutations linked to human Alzheimer’s disease.  However, the study could not confirm that it had an effect on amyloid plaques, the toxic build-up of proteins in the brain that effectively leads to cell death in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Dr. Rada Koldamova, M.D., Ph.D., senior author and associate professor at Pitt Public, said with confidence that their findings have made a case for the merits of continual study of bexarotene as therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

For this study, Dr. Koldamova and her team studied mice that expressed human Apoliopoprotein E4 (APOE4), the only known genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Bexarotene is chemically related to vitamin A and activates Retinoic X Receptors (RXR) all over the body. Once activated, they bind to DNA and regulate the gene expression of many biological processes, with the consequence of increased APOE4 levels, thanks to RXR activation by bexarotene. Results of the study showed that male and female mice responded equally, and that after ten days of testing with bexarotene, mice that genetically expressed human Alzheimer’s APOE3 or APOE4 were able to perform as well in cognitive testing as their control mice, healthy counterparts. The drug testing did not affect the mice’s overall weight or behavior, merely their level of cognition and memory retention.


University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (2013, May 23). Drug reverses Alzheimer’s disease deficits in mice.

Lauren Horne

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