The study focuses on a brain receptor called an NMDA receptor, known to play a critical role in learning and memory. However, over-activation of this receptor can be toxic to brain cells in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke. A drug called memantine blocks this over-activation of the NMDA receptor and is currently used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
The scientists studied the different parts that make up the receptor and how they interact with each other. They discovered that by making two of these parts stick strongly together, they could greatly reduce the activity of the receptor. The researchers hope that by designing new drugs to mimic this, they could more effectively block this receptor. This could offer new possibilities for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Dr Marie Janson from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, welcomed the findings. She said:
“This study presents new insight into the NMDA receptor, known to play an important role in Alzheimer’s. Increasing our understanding of receptors in the brain and how they work is essential for the future development of effective new Alzheimer’s treatments.
“As dementia currently affects over 820,000 people in the UK, research into new treatments is vital. Dementia research is hugely underfunded compared to other many other diseases and we must invest in research now if we are to make the progress that is so desperately needed.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK