The chicken-and-egg question of how brain plaques affectdevelopment of Alzheimer's disease will be examined moreclosely by a private neuroscience pharmaceutical companyunder a small business innovation research grant announcedMonday.

Gliatech Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, received the $50,000 grantfrom the National Institute on Aging to investigate the roles ofcertain cellsHmicroglia and astrocytesHin Alzheimer's disease.

This progressive neurodegenerative disease is marked by thepresence of senile plaques containing microglia and astrocytes.That suggests glial cells play an integral role in Alzheimer's.The plaques primarily contain beta-amyloid peptide.

"We believe neuroglial cells are compromised by the presenceof beta-amyloid peptide, which causes a defect in the functionof the cells and begins the process in which plaques are laiddown, resulting in cell death," Gliatech president and chiefexecutive officer Thomas Oesterling told BioWorld.

The grant brings total awards from the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH) to more than $1.1 million and will fund afeasibility study to last about six months, he said. If resultsseem promising, the study could lead to a Phase II grant tofund about two years of research with $500,000. Applicationsfor Phase II grants are especially favored if companies haveinterest from corporations that might assist commercialization.

Gliatech is developing a peptide that might inhibit binding ofbeta-amyloid peptide to glial cell receptors. Its leadingcompound may be too large to use therapeutically, but couldoffer information to use in the development of a smallermolecule that might be absorbed orally and cross the blood-brain barrier, said Oesterling.

Besides Alzheimer's disease, Gliatech has programs in surgicaladhesion and cognition modulation. The cognition workinvolves regulating a histamine receptor in the brain to bringenhanced alertness for states such as dementia and narcolepsy,or to calm moods in cases of insomnia or anxiety.

Gliatech, formed in 1988, has raised $19.5 million in threerounds of private financing. It has research/licensingagreements at the University of California, San Diego; CaseWestern Reserve University; the University of Miami; BrownUniversity and the University of Toledo.

The company registered for an initial public offering in April1992 but is "waiting for the right market conditions," Oesterlingsaid.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

No Comments