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Study Says Alzheimer’s Drugs Are Targeting the Wrong Genes

Maybe this explains why there’s been so little progress in treating Alzheimer’s: A new study suggests that drugs approved to treat the disease are targeting the wrong genes. “Our study provides no evidence that approved and investigational AD drugs are targeting products of genes strongly associated with late-onset AD, which might explain the lack of efficacy to date,” the researchers wrote.

The study appeared in EBioMedicine, published by The Lancet. The research was conducted by Professor C. Mary Schooling, Chair of the Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy’s Department of Environmental, Occupational, and Geospatial Health Sciences, along with colleagues at the University of Hong Kong.

The research was undertaken in light of “repeated expensive drug failures” for treating Alzheimer’s, they wrote.

To do the study, they first identified 67 genes strongly associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s. Then they used three reference guides to determine which, if any, of the drugs designed to treat Alzheimer’s are targeting the proteins produced when an Alzheimer’s-associated gene is activated. Incredibly, they found that existing, approved, or investigational Alzheimer’s drugs “did not target products of any of these 67 genes.”

The good news: The researchers found drugs designed to treat other conditions do target 11 Alzheimer’s-associated genes. These drugs, they suggested, could perhaps be “repurposed” for Alzheimer’s. Going forward, they recommend “genetic validation of potential AD drugs” to “identify the most promising drugs” and gene-based tests to screen out drugs “unlikely to be successful.”

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C. Mary Schooling (Professor, Environmental, Occupational, and Geospatial Health Sciences) | Profile 1