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Boost For Ulster Alzheimer's Disease Research

19 January 2010

Groundbreaking research by University of Ulster scientists could lead to a major breakthrough in the treatment of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Dr Christian Holscher, who heads up the Neuroscience Research Group, has been awarded an Invest Northern Ireland Proof of Concept (PoC) grant to investigate the properties of novel drugs for the treatment of AD and other neurological disorders.

“The potential benefits are that we might be able to develop a treatment for Alzheimer's, or at least support the endogenous repair mechanisms in the brain and delay the onset of the disease by many years,” says Dr Holscher who is based in the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute at Ulster’s Coleraine Campus,

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK, affecting around 417,000 people. Recent research has shown that diabetes is a risk factor for developing AD and Ulster’s Diabetes Research Group (DRG) has successfully developed a range of novel drugs designed to control type 2 diabetes.  Dr Holscher is currently collaborating with the DRG to investigate this link.

“Our research has shown that the same drugs can protect neurons from the effects of proteins that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.”

“In order to make these new drugs more commercially attractive and therefore interesting to the pharmaceutical industry, we need to carry out more research and conduct clinical trials,” said Dr Holscher. 

The University of Ulster has protected these novel drugs and their use for AD and other neurological disorders, and currently has two patents pending worldwide.

The recently awarded £100,000 proof of concept grant is aimed at enhancing our knowledge about the mode of action of these drugs, and  will attract the interest of commercial partners and aid the commercialisation of these recent discoveries.

He continued: “While it could take several years to complete these clinical trials on Alzheimer’s patients, the good news is that clinical trials carried out recently on these compounds with diabetes patients proved successful. This means the drugs called GLP-1 mimetics, which are currently on the market have been proven safe for diabetes patients. These now need to be tested in Alzheimer’s patients.“

Dr Holscher added that the PoC grant recognised the great potential of these new drugs.

“It is an important step towards developing new treatments for Alzheimer’s patients.”