Metals in our minds: therapeutic implications for neurodegenerative disorders.
BACKGROUND: Abnormal interactions of copper or iron in the brain with metal-binding proteins (such as amyloid-beta peptide [Abeta] or neuromelanin) that lead to oxidative stress have emerged as important potential mechanisms in brain ageing and neurodegenerative disorders. Although a controlled study of desferrioxamine in Alzheimer's disease(AD) had some promising results, concerns about toxicity and brain delivery have limited trials of traditional chelators. The therapeutic significance of metal dysregulation in neurodegenerative disorders has remained difficult to test. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: Clioquinol was identified as a prototype metal-protein-attenuating compound (MPAC). In a blinded and controlled 9 week study of a mouse model of AD, oral clioquinol decreased brain Abeta by 49% without systemic toxicity. The concentrations of copper and zinc in the brain rose by about 15% in mice treated with clioquinol. Two other studies in mice showed that the raising of brain copper concentrations through diet or genetics could lower amyloid load and increase survival. A recent placebo-controlled trial in 36 patients with AD showed that clioquinol (250-750 mg daily) reduced plasma concentrations of Abeta(1-42), raised plasma concentrations of zinc, and-in a subset with moderate dementia-slowed cognitive decline over 24 weeks. Two recent experiments also showed the neuroprotective effects of iron chelation in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease. WHERE NEXT?: The experimental and transgenic-animal studies of metal-protein interactions are convincing but do not provide conclusive answers either about causality or whether this strategy will protect against neurodegeneration in human beings. The finding that clioquinol could modulate plasma concentrations of amyloid and cognition in patients with AD needs to be interpreted cautiously, but is an important first step. Clioquinol was withdrawn because of concerns of its association with subacute myelo-optic neuropathy in Japan; therefore, any additional studies with this drug will likely be small and closely monitored proof-of-concept studies. The development of optimal second-generation MPACs is a desirable goal and may permit greater insights into the significance of metal-protein interactions across several neurodegenerative disorders.
Doraiswamy, PM; Finefrock, AE
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