Neurodegenerative diseases are now generally considered as a group of disorders that seriously and progressively impair the functions of the nervous system through selective neuronal vulnerability of specific brain regions. Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease, followed in incidence by Parkinson's disease; much less common are frontotemporal dementia, Huntington's disease, amyothrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), progressive supranuclear palsy, spinocerebellar ataxia, Pick's disease and, lastly, prion disease. In this review, the authors intend to survey new drugs in different clinical phases but not in the preclinical or discovery stages nor already in the market, with new molecules aimed at interrupting or at attenuating different pathogenic pathways of neurodegeneration and/or at ameliorating symptoms. Drugs in different pharmacological phases are under study or are ready to be introduced into therapy for Alzheimer's disease, which display anti-beta-amyloid activity or nerve growth factor-like activity or anti-inflammatory properties. Other drugs possess mixed mechanisms of action, such as acetylcholinesterase inhibition and impairment of beta-amyloid formation through inhibition of beta-amyloid precursor protein synthesis and/or modulation of secretase activity. Other therapeutic approaches are based on immunotherapy, control of metal ions interactions with beta-amyloid and ensuing oxidative reactions as well as metabolic or hormonal regulation. The symptomatic therapy of motor behaviour in Parkinson's disease, based on l-DOPA, is registering adenosine A(2A) receptor antagonists, monoamine oxidase B inhibitors and ion channel modulators, as well as dopamine uptake inhibitors and glutamate AMPA receptor antagonists. There are also many other drugs involved, including astrocyte-modulating agents, 5-HT(1A) agonists and alpha(2)-adrenergic receptor antagonists, which are targeted at preventing or ameliorating Parkinson's disease-related or l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias. Huntington's disease therapy envisages a Phase III drug, LAX-101, which displays antiapoptotic properties by promoting membrane stabilisation and mitochondrial integrity. Other drugs with antioxidant and antiapoptotic steroid-like and neuroprotective activity are under investigation for the therapy of the less common neurodegenerative diseases.
Scatena, R., Martorana, G. E., Bottoni, P., Pastore, P., Giardina, B., Botta, G., An update on pharmacological approaches to neurodegenerative diseases., <<EXPERT OPINION ON INVESTIGATIONAL DRUGS>>, 2007; (Gennaio): 59-72 [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/8922]