“There aren’t very good drugs out there,” Bodhinathan explains, “and even the ones that are out, they hit multiple targets, which mean they cure what you need but also create side effects, like depression and suicidal behavior. My job is to see if we can refine them.”
Akhtar is finding out more about the link between Alzheimer's and diabetes.
“Generally,” he says, “the people with diabetes have roughly two times higher the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.”
There are several reasons for that, he says, but the main reason centers on the sugar level in diabetic patient. High levels affect neuronal function and causes dysfunction in the powerhouses of the brain.
“In the diabetic brain, you see that they decline in learning and memory, which is what you see in an Alzheimer’s brain,” Akhtar notes.
Bodhinathan is researching the chemicals that affect the brain in prior unknown ways. It’s a big challenge, he says, because most times the drugs don’t do what researchers predict. Researchers change the chemistry, fueling a lengthy retesting process.
“I’m trying to see if we can use the brain’s different mechanism to clear these toxic proteins in the brain,” Bodhinathan says. “They attract more proteins, and they become this big gob in the brain – and we believe that once we attack those clusters, we will be able to cure the disease.”
In a related development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Acadia Pharmaceutical’s Nuplazid drug for the treatment of hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease psychosis. In 2014 the FDA designated Nuplazid as a “breakthrough therapy” for this condition.
Acadia, based in San Diego, plans in June to make Nuplazid commercially available to patients suffering from hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease psychosis in the United States.
According to the National Parkinson Foundation, about 1 million people in the United States and from 4 to 6 million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s disease. An estimated 40 percent of these patients have Parkinson’s disease psychosis, characterized by hallucinations and delusions. This is associated with significant caregiver burden and is a major reason for nursing home placement among Parkinson’s patients.