This finding may help develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

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In a new study from Oregon Health & Science University, researchers found it’s possible to use a synthetic thyroid hormone to regulate a gene implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

The findings raise the possibility of the development of new medication to treat debilitating diseases.

The discovery builds on a 2013 study linking genetic variants of TREM2 to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

That study showed it’s possible to turn on TREM2 expression and the TREM2 pathway using a compound originally developed more than two decades ago to lower cholesterol.

In the current study, the team put an analog of the compound that penetrates into the central nervous system of mice.

They discovered they were able to increase the expression of TREM2 and reduce damage to myelin. Myelin is the insulation-like protective sheath covering nerve fibers that are damaged in disorders like multiple sclerosis.

The pathway activated by the TREM2 gene is also implicated in many brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The team says TREM2 senses damaged cellular debris from disease and responds in a healing, productive way.

The findings suggest TREM2 is a viable ‘target’ for treatment in Alzheimer’s disease.

The study has important implications for testing a new therapeutic approach for Alzheimer’s.

The synthetic thyroid hormone compound, known as sobetirome and similar analogs, is already licensed by an OHSU spinoff company to conduct clinical trials for central nervous system diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

In contrast to other basic science discoveries in mice, this latest discovery connects this class of compounds to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, advancing the science that much closer to clinical trials in people with debilitating disease.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about these existing drugs may help treat Alzheimer’s disease and findings of a new way to predict future dementia, Alzheimer’s risk.

For more information about Alzheimer’s and your health, please see recent studies about the critical time window to stop Alzheimer’s disease and results showing that this new drug may prevent Alzheimer’s disease effectively and safely.

The study is published in Cell Chemical Biology. One author of the study is Tom Scanlan, Ph.D.

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