Prospects for antiapoptotic drug therapy of neurodegenerative diseases.Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2003 Apr; 27(2):303-21.PN
The evidence for a role of apoptosis in the neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and in the more acute conditions of cerebral ischemia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and spinal cord injury (SCI) is reviewed with regard to potential intervention by means of small antiapoptotic molecules. In addition, the available animal models for these diseases are discussed with respect to their relevance for testing small antiapoptotic molecules in the context of what is known about the apoptotic pathways involved in the diseases and the models. The principal issues related to pharmacotherapy by apoptosis inhibition, i.e., functionality of rescued neurons and potential interference with physiologically occurring apoptosis, are pointed out. Finally, the properties of a number of small antiapoptotic molecules currently under clinical investigation are summarized. It is concluded that the evidence for a role of apoptosis at present is more convincing for PD and ALS than for AD. In PD, damage to dopaminergic neurons may occur through oxidative stress and/or mitochondrial impairment and culminate in activation of an apoptotic, presumably p53-dependent cascade; some neurons experiencing energy failure may not be able to complete apoptosis, end up in necrosis and give rise to inflammatory processes. These events are reasonably well reflected in some of the PD animal models, notably those involving 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) and rotenone. In sporadic ALS, an involvement of pathways involving p53 and Bcl-2 family members appears possible if not likely, but is not established. The issue is important for the development of antiapoptotic compounds for the treatment of this disease because of differential involvement of p53 in different mutant superoxide dismutase (SOD) mice. Most debated is the role of apoptosis in AD; this implies that little is known about potentially involved pathways. Moreover, there is a lack of suitable animal models for compound evaluation. Apoptosis or related phenomena are likely involved in secondary cell death in cerebral ischemia, TBI, and SCI. Most of the pertinent information comes from animal experiments, which have provided some evidence for prevention of cell death by antiapoptotic treatments, but little for functional benefit. Much remains to be done in this area to explore the potential of antiapoptotic drugs. There is a small number of antiapoptotic compounds in clinical development. With some of them, evidence for maintenance of functionality of the rescued neurons has been obtained in some animal models, and the fact that they made it to phase II studies in patients suggests that interference with physiological apoptosis is not an obligatory problem. The prospect that small antiapoptotic molecules will have an impact on the therapy of neurodegenerative diseases, and perhaps also of ischemia and trauma, is therefore judged cautiously positively.