Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 5 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 5-Jan-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 6-Jan-2004
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Pharmaceutical "metal binder" could put the breaks on Alzheimer symptoms

Clioquinol, a drug that binds to metal compounds and clears them from the body, may slow cognitive decline in patients severely affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD), suggests a study appearing in the Archives of Neurology for December 2003.

Dr. Colin L. Masters, at the University of Melbourne, and his associates explain in their article that clioquinol promotes the removal of zinc-copper compounds and makes beta-amyloid soluble allowing it to be eliminated.

Beta-amyloid is the abnormal protein that characteristically accumulates in the brains of patients with AD. Lab studies have shown that decreasing brain amyloid-beta deposits in mice with a form of AD reduces the toxic effect of amyloid on neurons.

In a 36-week study, 16 patients with moderately severe AD were given clioquinol and 16 were given an inactive placebo. The drug appeared to slow the worsening of cognitive scores when compared to patients in the placebo group. After 24 weeks, the trend was maintained until the end of the trial but the difference became less pronounced.

"The findings support a proof of concept in humans that a drug targeting metal-amyloid beta interactions can have a significant effect on amyloid-beta metabolism and, through this, a beneficial modification on the progression of AD," Masters' group concludes.

The drug seemed to be safe, with adverse events occurring no more often in the clioquinol group than in the placebo group. The one exception was the development of impaired visual acuity and color vision disturbance in one patient, which resolved when treatment was stopped.

This type of drug "offers promise as a new therapeutic strategy," maintains Dr. Roger N. Rosenberg, in an accompanying editorial. Dr. Rosenberg is on staff at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

SOURCE: Archives of Neurology, December 2003.

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