A new class of drug designed specifically to combat Alzheimer's Disease has entered clinical trials in the US this week. Dubbed CTS-21166, the drug was the brain child of Purdue researcher Professor Arun Ghosh. Unlike existing treatments for Alzheimer's, most of which aim to boost levels of the neurotransmitter acetyl choline, CTS-21166 blocks an enzyme called beta-secretase, which is thought to be responsible for the pathological build-up in the brain of aggregates called beta-amyloid.
These are a neuropathological hallmark of the disease and are thought to provoke the death and dysfunction of nerve cells, which is what triggers the disease. Scientists suspect that if the formation of these amyloid plaques can be prevented then the progression or even the onset of the disease might be delayed. The trial, which is being run by San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company CoMentis Inc., has enrolled 48 healthy volunteers in a phase 1 trial to assess the safety and tolerability of the new drug, with phase 2 trials involving patients with Alzheimer's starting in 2008. Ghosh is optimistic. "The molecule is both highly potent and highly selective, meaning it does not appear to affect other enzymes important to brain function or cause harmful side effects".