Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have discovered a drug they say may reverse the cognitive deficits seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Profound short-term memory problems are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that affects tens of millions of people around the world. The brain disorder mostly strikes elderly people - in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Its cause is still unknown.
The compound that may help reverse cognitive impairment is called TC-2153. It inhibits the negative effects of a protein called STEP (Striatal-Enriched tyrosine Phosphatase). Elevated STEP levels interfere with other proteins that are crucial for learning and memory. STEP also weakens synaptic junctions, the minute spaces between nerve cells across which nerve impulses travel. TC-2153, according to investigators, blocks STEP, strengthening the neuronal connections.
Writing in the open access journal PLOS Biology, the Yale researchers say a single dose of the TC compound improved cognitive functions in mice. They say the Alzheimer’s mice performed as well on some cognitive tests as control mice without memory problems.
The researchers say it took collaborators five years to identify the STEP inhibitor among thousands of small molecules. They next plan to test the TC compound in other, larger animals with cognitive deficits.