New compound for slowing the aging process may lead to novel treatments for brain diseases

A step toward development of drugs for diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's
December 5, 2013

Will this new compound for slowing the aging process lead to novel treatments for brain diseases? (Credit: Tayir El-Ami et al./Aging Cell)

Researchers at the Hebrew university of Jerusalem have found that TyrNovo’s NT219 compound selectively inhibits the process of aging of the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, without affecting lifespan — a step towards development of future drugs for treating various neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

These diseases stem from toxic protein aggregation and emerge late in life. The common emergence pattern exhibited by these maladies proposes that the aging process tends to block the protective mechanisms that prevent the manifestation of these diseases early in life, thus exposing the elderly to (delayed) disease.

This idea has been the major focus of the work in the laboratory of Dr. Ehud Cohen of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine.

Inhibition of the IGF1 signaling pathway is key to  treatment

Cohen’s first breakthrough in this area occurred when he discovered, working with worms, that reducing the activity of the signaling mechanism conveyed through insulin and the growth hormone IGF1, a major aging regulating pathway, constituted a defense against the aggregation of the Aβ protein, which is linked with Alzheimer’s disease. Later, he found that the inhibition of this signaling route also protected Alzheimer’s-model mice from behavioral impairments and pathological phenomena typical to the disease. In these studies, the path was reduced through genetic manipulation, a method not applicable in humans.

Dr. Hadas Reuveni, the CEO of TyrNovo, a startup company formed for the clinical development of NT219, and Prof. Alexander Levitzki from the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Hebrew University, with their research teams, discovered a new set of compounds that inhibit the activity of the growth hormone IGF1 signaling cascade in a unique and efficient mechanism, primarily for cancer treatment, and defined NT219 as the leading compound for further development.

The researchers have now demonstrated that NT219 efficiently inhibits IGF1 signaling in both worms and human cells. The inhibition of this signaling pathway by NT219 protected worms from toxic protein aggregation, which in humans is associated with development of Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease.

The discoveries achieved during this project, which was funded by the Rosetrees Trust of Britain, were published this week in the open access journal Aging Cell.

The findings strengthen the notion that the inhibition of the IGF1 signaling pathway has a therapeutic potential as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders. They also point at NT219 as the first compound that provides protection from neurodegeneration-associated toxic protein aggregation through a selective manipulation of aging.

Recently, Dr. Cohen’s laboratory obtained an ethical approval to test the therapeutic efficiency of NT219 as a treatment in Alzheimer’s-model mice, hoping to develop a future treatment for hitherto incurable neurodegenerative disorders.

Abstract of the Aging Cell paper

Aging manipulation is an emerging strategy aimed to postpone the manifestation of late-onset neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s (AD) and Huntington’s diseases (HD) and to slow their progression once emerged. Reducing the activity of the insulin/IGF signaling cascade (IIS), a prominent aging-regulating pathway, protects worms from proteotoxicity of various aggregative proteins, including the AD-associated peptide, Aβ- and the HD-linked peptide, polyQ40. Similarly, IGF1 signaling reduction protects mice from AD-like disease. These discoveries suggest that IIS inhibitors can serve as new drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative maladies including AD and HD. Here, we report that NT219, a novel IIS inhibitor, mediates a long-lasting, highly efficient inhibition of this signaling cascade by a dual mechanism; it reduces the autophosphorylation of the IGF1 receptor and directs the insulin receptor substrates 1 and 2 (IRS 1/2) for degradation. NT219 treatment promotes stress resistance and protects nematodes from AD- and HD-associated proteotoxicity without affecting lifespan. Our discoveries strengthen the theme that IIS inhibition has a therapeutic potential as a cure for neurodegenerative maladies and point at NT219 as a promising compound for the treatment of these disorders through a selective manipulation of aging.