A protein called GPR3 could become a new target for drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Removing the GPR3 protein from four different mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease reduced the number of toxic amyloid plaques in the brain, which is a classic hallmark of the condition. One of the mouse models also showed improvements in memory, learning and social behaviour after having the GPR3 protein removed.
Brain samples from people who died with Alzheimer’s disease had increased levels of the GPR3 protein compared to healthy brains – and levels of the protein increased as the disease progressed. GPR3 is a class of protein called G-protein coupled receptors which are common drug targets but there is not yet an existing drug that can target this specific protein.
Responding to this, Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“With an ageing population, cases of Alzheimer’s disease will continue to rise so the need to find new treatments that can slow down or stop the disease is increasingly urgent. As it is, current treatments only help to manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and no new drugs have been discovered for more than a decade.
“While the study has identified that removing a protein in the brain (known as GPR3) reduces the amount of toxic amyloid plaques, further work is needed to discover a drug that can be safely administered to target this protein. Alzheimer’s Society will spend £100 million on research over the next decade because preliminary studies like this are vital to uncover new drug targets and drive forward our search for better dementia treatments.”