Brain cholinesterases: III. Future perspectives of AD research and clinical practice

Med Hypotheses. 2004;63(2):298-307. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2004.03.001.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is initially and primarily associated with the degeneration and alteration in the metabolism of cholinesterases (ChEs). The use of ChEs inhibitors to treat Alzheimer's condition, on the basis of the cholinergic hypothesis of the disease, is, therefore, without grounds. Most disturbing is the fact that the currently available anti-ChEs are designed to inhibit normal ChEs in the brain and throughout the body, but not the abnormal ones. Based on the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) deficiency theory, treatment should be designed to protect the cranial ChEs system from alteration and/or to help that system fight against degeneration through restoring its homeostatic action for brain structure and function instead. The overlap in the clinical, biochemical, molecular-cellular, and pathological alterations seen in patients with AD and individuals with many other brain disorders, which has bewildered many investigators, may now be explained by the shared underlying mismetabolism of brain ChEs. The abnormal metabolism of ChEs existing in asymptomatic subjects may indicate that the system is "at risk" and deserves serious attention. Future perspectives of ChEs research in vivo and in vitro in connection with AD and clinical diagnosis, prevention and treatment are proposed. Several potentially useful therapeutic and preventive means and pharmacological agents in this regard are identified and discussed, such as physical and intellectual stimulation, and a class of drugs including vitamin E, R-(-)-deprenyl (deprenyl, selegiline), acetyl L-carnitine, cytidine diphosphocholine (CDP-choline), centrophenoxine, L-phenylalanine, naloxone, galactose, and lithium, that have been proven to be able to stimulate AChE activity. Their working mechanisms may be through directly changing the configuration of AChE molecules and/or correcting micro- and overall environmental biological conditions for ChEs.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / enzymology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Cholinesterases / deficiency*
  • Cholinesterases / metabolism
  • Cytidine Diphosphate Choline / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Activators / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Meclofenoxate / therapeutic use
  • Selegiline / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use


  • Enzyme Activators
  • Vitamin E
  • Selegiline
  • Cytidine Diphosphate Choline
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Meclofenoxate
  • Cholinesterases