Research Highlights

New therapeutic target to treat Alzheimer's disease

Published online 21 October 2015

Gene linked to Alzheimer's offers hope for therapy without side-effects.

Sedeer El-Showk

Researchers identified a new therapeutic target for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. While still at the preclinical stage, the new approach may avoid the efficacy and safety issues that have afflicted other treatments.

A team of researchers from institutes around the world, including Belgium's VIB Center for the Biology of Disease and the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Saudi Arabia, investigated the physiological impact of lower expression of the Gpr3 gene in mouse models for Alzheimer's.

The team first identified a link between the protein GPR3 and Alzheimer's in 2009; four years later, they showed how GPR3 could be targeted without adverse side-effects. Now, they find that reduced GPR3 levels lead to the formation of fewer amyloid plaques and lower levels of cognitive deficits in mice, showing its value as a therapeutic target.

Measuring GPR3 levels in post-mortem human brain samples, the team found a correlation between increased GPR3 expression and Alzheimer's disease.

Next the team will assess the effect of pharmaceutical modulation of GPR3. “The translation of preclinical research into the clinic requires a significant amount of time and effort,” says VIB's Amantha Thathiah, who leads the project. “A collaborative effort between academic and drug discovery investigators should yield promising results in the near future.”


Huang, Y. et al. Loss of GPR3 reduces the amyloid plaque burden and improves memory in Alzheimer's disease mouse models. Sci. Transl. Med. (2015).