Therapeutic approaches for prion and Alzheimer's diseases

Authors

  • Thomas Wisniewski,

    1.  Department of Neurology, New York University School of Medicine, NY, USA
    2.  Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, NY, USA
    3.  Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, NY, USA
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  • Einar M. Sigurdsson

    1.  Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, NY, USA
    2.  Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, NY, USA
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T. Wisniewski, New York University School of Medicine, Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry and Pathology, Millhauser Laboratories, Room HN419, 560 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA
Fax: +1 212 263 7528
Tel: +1 212 263 7993
E-mail: thomas.wisniewski@med.nyu.edu

Abstract

Alzheimer's and prion diseases belong to a category of conformational neurodegenerative disorders [Prusiner SB (2001) N Eng J Med344, 1516–1526; Sadowski M & Wisniewski T (2007) Curr Pharm Des 13, 1943–1954; Beekes M (2007) FEBS J 274, 575]. Treatments capable of arresting or at least effectively modifying the course of disease do not yet exist for either one of these diseases. Alzheimer's disease is the major cause of dementia in the elderly and has become an ever greater problem with the aging of Western societies. Unlike Alzheimer's disease, prion diseases are relatively rare. Each year only approximately 300 people in the USA and approximately 100 people in the UK succumb to various forms of prion diseases [Beekes M (2007) FEBS J 274, 575; Sigurdsson EM & Wisniewski T (2005) Exp Rev Vaccines 4, 607–610]. Nevertheless, these disorders have received great scientific and public interest due to the fact that they can be transmissible among humans and in certain conditions from animals to humans. The emergence of variant Creutzfeld–Jakob disease demonstrated the transmissibility of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy to humans [Beekes M (2007) FEBS J 274, 575]. Therefore, the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy across Europe and the recently identified cases in North America have put a large human population at risk of prion infection. It is estimated that at least several thousand Britons are asymptomatic carriers of prion infections and may develop variant Creutzfeld–Jakob disease in the future [Hilton DA (2006) J Pathol 208, 134–141]. This delayed emergence of human cases following the near elimination of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the UK may occur because prion disease have a very prolonged incubation period, ranging from months to decades, which depends on the amount of inoculum, the route of infection and the genetic predisposition of the infected subject [Hilton DA (2006) J Pathol 208, 134–141]. Therefore, there is a great need for effective therapies for both Alzheimer's disease and prion diseases.

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