Researchers from Lancaster University, England, have found that Salbutamol, a medication commonly used to treat asthma, may also be able to treat Alzheimer's disease.
For the study, the researchers used an automated 'high throughput' screening approach to analyze the structure of faulty tau proteins. In doing so, they were able to simultaneously compare over 80 existing compounds and drugs to see which was the most effective at preventing tau fibrils (a precursor to neurofibrillary tangles, which are a primary marker for Alzheimer's disease) from forming.
They found that the compound, epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, was effective at stabilizing tau proteins and preventing the formation of neurofibrillary tangles.
As our bodies do not readily absorb epinephrine, and as it metabolizes quickly in the body, the scientists then sought to find compounds with similar structures.
They eventually came across Salbutamol. To test the drug, they added it to solutions containing tau. In doing so, they found that the drug drastically reduced the density of tau fibrils, and thus may be able to treat and prevent Alzheimer's disease.
Easily ingested, absorbed in the brain, and with a half-life of several hours, the researchers say that the asthma drug shows promise for further research in developing a treatment for Alzheimer's.
"Salbutamol has already undergone extensive human safety reviews, and if follow up research reveals an ability to impede Alzheimer's disease progression in cellular and animal models, this drug could offer a step forward, whilst drastically reducing the cost and time associated with typical drug development", says Dr. David Townsend, lead author of the research.
"This work is in the very early stages, and we are some way from knowing whether or not Salbutamol will be effective at treating Alzheimer's disease in human patients," adds Professor David Middleton, co-author of the research. "However, our results justify further testing of Salbutamol, and similar drugs, in animal models of the disease and eventually, if successful, in clinical trials."