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2006 Grant - Atwood
Leuprolide Acetate in the Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease
Craig S. Atwood, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin
2006 Zenith Fellows Award
Leuprolide is a drug that is closely related to the natural hormone gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH regulates the secretion of sex hormones from the pituitary gland, but it also has other effects and roles in various regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is important for learning and memory.
Early studies in animals found that leuprolide decreases the production of beta-amyloid-a key suspect in Alzheimer pathology-in brain tissue. More recently, clinical trials of leuprolide in humans have shown that it may slow or eliminate cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. However, the mechanisms responsible for this effect are unknown.
Craig Atwood, Ph.D., and colleagues are proposing to study the cellular mechanisms behind leuprolide's potential benefit as Alzheimer treatment. One prominent hypothesis is that leuprolide stops nerve cells from starting the process of cell division, which seems to occur at an unusually high rate in brain regions affected by Alzheimer's disease. Unlike cells in other parts of the body, mature nerve cells in the brain cannot tolerate cell division and usually die when the process is started.
The researchers will study how nerve cell division is affected by leuprolide and related drugs, how leuprolide exerts its effects, and whether leuprolide can halt cell division and preserve nerve cell health. The results may help to explain how leuprolide may preserve cognitive function in persons in early stages of Alzheimer's disease.