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One Small Molecule, Potential Giant Step to Improve Cognitive Function

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. – 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.

Kathleen Rodgers, PhDThe 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.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved only five drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, none of which prevent or cure the disorder. A $6.1 million study at the UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science seeks to change that.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 accelerates 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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NOTE: Photo available upon request.

About the Center for Innovation in Brain Science
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 neurodegenerative disease. The CIBS team is focused on four age-associated neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). With expertise spanning discovery, translational, regulatory and clinical science, CIBS is shifting the research paradigm as one of the nation’s leading research centers, pioneering patient-inspired, data-driven approaches to find cures for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The CIBS mission is to create innovations in brain science of the future for those who need a cure today. Find out more about how CIBS is achieving the vision of vibrant brains that last a lifetime. For more information: cibs.uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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