Correcting the balance

ONE after another, the next big drugs aiming to attack Alzheimer’s disease at its roots have failed before making it out of clinical trial phase. Could a Melbourne-developed drug known as PBT2 finally break the cycle of disappointment?

In March, the University of Melbourne’s Professor Ashley Bush was awarded a $4 million NHMRC Australia Fellowship to advance his research in two key areas, which if successful, could turn treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease on its head.

It’s been 20 years since Professor Bush, who has placements at the Mental Health Research Institute and also at Harvard, first identified a link between an imbalance of copper and zinc in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease. The theory is that when there is an abnormal supply of these metals, they react with amyloid proteins and become toxic, causing cognitive decline. The metals also become trapped in the amyloid, depriving the brain of essential chemicals.