Monday, June 28, 2010

Prospects for enhancers

Drugmakers have plans to counter various forms of dementia, ranging from that found in alzheimer’s disease to the common memory loss that occurs with aging (age-associated memory impairment). These compounds, a selection of which are included here and many of which have yet to reach late-stage clinical trials, might eventually be used by healthy people who want to improve mental functioning, although questions remain about how safe or effective they would be for people without a cognitive deficit.

Drug Class: Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activators. Either increase levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the synapse of a neuron, or the drugs themselves take the place of acetylcholine in the synapse to activate the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, enhancing attention, memory and other facets of cognition. Developer: Abbott, CoMentis, EnVivo, Targacept/AstraZeneca and Xytis.

Drug Class: Ampakines. Act on AMPA receptors to strengthen neuronal responses to the neurotransmitter glutamate, activity that should facilitate the laying down of long-term memories. Developer: Cortex Pharmaceuticals; Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline/ Neurosearch, Organon, Pfizer and Servier.

Drug Class: Phosphodiesterase (PDE) Inhibitors. One type of PDE blocker enables a signaling molecule, cyclic AMP, to remain active longer in brain neurons, thereby enhancing the activity of a protein called CREB that is important to long-term memory. Developer: Helicon Therapeutics, Hoffmann–La Roche and Merck.

Drug Class: Antihistamines. Block a histamine receptor called the H3 receptor, thereby improving wakefulness, attention and cognition. One drug that interacts with the H1 receptor, developed as a treatment for hay fever in Russia, has entered late-stage clinical trials as an enhancer. Developer: GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Medivation/Pfi zer.

Source of Information : Scientific American October 2009

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