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One Small Molecule, Potential Giant Step to Improve Cognitive Function

A new $6.1 million study led by Dr. Kathleen Rodgers at the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the UArizona Health Sciences will test novel small molecules to improve the lives of Alzheimer’s patients.

With only five available drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Alzheimer’s disease – and no drugs to prevent or cure it – the National Institute on Aging has awarded a $6.1 million grant to the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences to investigate a novel approach to treat the disease.

The study will seek to advance the development of a small molecule Mas agonist leading to the submission of an investigational new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Mas agonists are used to bind to and activate biological receptors, and this study will involve the renin-angiotensin system, a hormone system that regulates blood pressure, fluid balance and vascular resistance.

In recent years, cardiovascular disorders and genetic factors have been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The renin-angiotensin system has been implicated in both cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, yet the protective arm of the system, including angiotensin (1-7), is known to counter-regulate the effects and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Kathleen Rodgers, PhD, principal investigator for the multiyear grant, said the data from numerous clinical trials of Mas agonists is very promising. “Our lab is focused on harnessing the power of the Mas receptor to hopefully regenerate damaged tissues. Our therapies have the potential to become new therapeutics that slow its progression, treat cognitive symptoms and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.” She is the center’s associate director for translational neuroscience and a professor of pharmacology at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 50 million people worldwide and is the most common form of age-related dementia. Currently, no clinical interventions have demonstrated substantial therapeutic effectiveness to prevent, delay or treat the disease.

“Dr. Rodgers’ research project is advancing our quest to create innovations to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s. Her research could have wide-ranging implications for age-associated neurodegenerative diseases and accelerate our ability to deliver on the promise of precision medicine: the right drug for the right person at the right time,” said center Director Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD.

“The Center for Innovation in Brain Science has made remarkable progress in advancing our understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “Dr. Rodgers’ research continues the momentum of innovation at the core of our university and gives our communities hope for a healthier future.”

This research is supported by the National Institute on Aging, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, under Award No: U01AG063768.

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The Center for Innovation in Brain Science (CIBS) at the University of Arizona is addressing the challenge that, in the 21st century, there is not a single cure for a single neurodegenerative disease and is focused on four age-associated neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and ALS.

© 2021 Center for Innovation Brain Science. University of Arizona Health Sciences.