Alzheimer's: "We Now Have Clear Targets"

Amgen's discovery of a key enzyme clears the way for further breakthroughs

In late October, Amgen Inc. announced the breakthrough discovery of one of the key triggers of Alzheimer's disease: an enzyme that sparks formation of the plaque deposits that clog the brains of its victims. The finding was reported one day before the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, where, in three days, attendees heard about more advances in Alzheimer's than they had seen in decades. Elan Pharmaceuticals and SmithKline Beecham announced results of their work on a plaque-forming enzyme. Other scientists elaborated on the discovery only a few months ago of a different potential plaque trigger. And dozens of research teams reported findings on new drugs, diagnostic markers, and disease mechanisms. "This is a very, very exciting time in Alzheimer's research," says Dr. Dennis J. Selkoe, director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. "We now have clear targets" for drugs that inhibit the disease.

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