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Pharmacogenomics J. 2006 Jan-Feb;6(1):8-15.

The expanding role of BDNF: a therapeutic target for Alzheimer's disease?

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  • 1Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Center of Neuropharmacology, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.


Finding an effective treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders still represents an unmet goal. There is considerable evidence that such disorders represent a combination of genetic determinants and failure of neuroprotective mechanisms sparking a wider degree of interest in shedding light on the cellular changes responsible for these devastating disorders. Because of their role in survival or differentiation of developing neurons, as well as the recent discovery of their importance in regulating synaptic plasticity during adulthood, neurotrophic factors have been suggested as essential contributors of the etiology of neurodegenerative disorders. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a complex, chronic, devastating disease that affects a high percentage of the population over 65 years of age. This review will focus on different pharmacological interventions that are currently in use or drugs under development, narrowing the therapeutic agents to those that interfere with the expression of the trophic factor brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule playing a pivotal role in synaptic plasticity and cognition. From these findings, it appears clear that BDNF is implicated in the mechanism of action of drugs that improve cognitive deficits in animal models of AD and in AD patients.

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