In a new study from Oregon Health & Science University, researchers demonstrated it’s possible to use a synthetic thyroid hormone to help treat 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 publication linking genetic variants of TREM2 to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The new research builds on that work by showing that 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 study, the team discovered the new drug was able to increase the expression of TREM2 and reduce damage to myelin. Myelin is the insulation-like protective sheath covering nerve fibers that’s damaged in disorders like multiple sclerosis.
The pathway activated by the TREM2 gene is also implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The team says TREM2 is a receptor. It senses damaged cellular debris from disease and responds in a healing, productive way.
TREM2 is a viable ‘target’ for treatment in Alzheimer’s disease, based on genetics and other studies.
This new report has important implications for testing a new therapeutic approach for Alzheimer’s, including raising the potential for developing a new medication to regulate TREM2.
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.
This latest discovery connects this class of compounds to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, advancing the science that much was closer to clinical trials in people with the debilitating diseases.
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The study is published in Cell Chemical Biology. One author of the study is Tom Scanlan, Ph.D.
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