NEW ORLEANS. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital provided some welcome news for Alzheimer's patients at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of beta amyloid plaque in the brain. The researchers discovered that zinc and copper are intimately involved in the processes leading to the accumulation and actually form part of the accumulation. They reasoned that if they could find a drug that could bind to the copper and zinc and eliminate them from the amyloid deposits then the plaques themselves might dissolve and disappear. They found their "magic bullet" in the antibiotic clioquinol. Clioquinol was able to dissolve amyloid deposits in postmortem brain tissue from people who died with Alzheimer's disease. The researchers also found that clioquinol inhibited plaque formation in mice engineered to develop Alzheimer's- like deposits. A second study concluded that clioquinol was able to clear up plaques in mice that had already developed substantial deposits. A clinical trial aimed at determining whether clioquinol can help people suffering from Alzheimer's is now underway. The researchers caution that taking clioqinol can result in an acute vitamin B12 deficiency so supplementation may be necessary.
Helmuth, Laura. An antibiotic to treat Alzheimer's? Science, Vol. 290, November 17, 2000, pp. 1273-74