Graduate and undergraduate students work the lab of Liqin Zhao, assistant professor
of pharmacology and toxicology at the School of Pharmacy. Image courtesy Liqin Zhao.
(September 10, 2015) Today, more than 5.1 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating type of dementia that plagues memory and thinking. That number is expected to triple in the coming decades. Moreover, according to a 2012 survey, Americans fear Alzheimer’s more than any other disease.
But studies looking into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have been frustratingly disappointing.
“There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Liqin Zhao, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy. “Five available Alzheimer’s disease drugs were all approved by FDA 10 years ago, and they provide only temporary symptomatic relief for an average of six to 12 months.”
Zhao said that over the last decade, more than 100 human trials aimed at Alzheimer’s disease treatment have been conducted with little success.
Now, she’s part of a KU team that has published a breakthrough investigation into human ApoE2, a seemingly protective “apolipoprotein” created by the ApoE gene — a gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk. The research appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 48(2).
“Human ApoE is polymorphic and exists in three major alleles — ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4,” Zhao said. “ApoE2 is a rare form and is considered neuroprotective. ApoE3 is the most common form and considered to play a neutral role in AD. ApoE4 is the greatest genetic risk factor for late-onset sporadic AD — ApoE4 occurs in only about 20 percent of the total population but accounts for approximately 50 percent of the Alzheimer’s disease population.”