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Restoring the Dying Brain: BRNI Works to Fight Alzheimer's Disease

Dr. Daniel AlkonA drug called Bryostatin holds potential for treating and even preventing Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Daniel Alkon said during the inaugural JHU/NCI Lunch Time Lecture Series.

Researchers have found that Bryostatin enhances learning and memory in normal adult rats, Alkon said, explaining that rats more quickly learned how to navigate a water maze after being administered the drug. Researchers also found that Bryostatin prevents the loss of synapses in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. Synapses are connections in the brain; messages are sent across synapses. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a deterioration of synapses. Students watching presentation

Alkon is scientific director of Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, which is headquartered in West Virginia and has labs at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus.

BRNI is conducting Phase 2 clinical trials of Bryostatin for the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The drug originally was conceived as an anti-cancer drug but wasn’t successful. However, Bryostatin might be one of the keys for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 5.5 million people in the United States suffer from the neurodegenerative disease. That number is expected to triple by 2050. It is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars annually in health care costs.

The lecture series is a newly established collaboration between the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education. Approximately 40 people attended the event, including students, professors and representatives from companies located on the Montgomery County Campus.

The next lecture is scheduled for Oct. 23.