One hundred years after the discovery of Alzheimer's disease. A turning point for therapy?

J Alzheimers Dis. 2007 Aug;12(1):37-52. doi: 10.3233/jad-2007-12105.


Following the introduction of cholinesterase inhibitors in 1986 and a 20-yr long period of successful clinical application in mild, moderate and severe patients, the treatment of AD has turned to modify the course of pathological processes thought to comprise the disease. Several active and passive vaccines are presently under investigation for efficacy, reducing amyloid-beta in the brain of patients with mild-moderately advanced disease. Three large international immunization trials are in progress in US and Europe on mild-moderate AD patients. Among these, the most advanced trial in time is the humanized antibody trial. In addition, drugs aiming to reduce tau phosphorylation (GSK3 inhibitors) are about to enter clinical phases of development. Due to intrinsic difficulties, the developments of gamma-and beta-secretase inhibitors have not yet reached clinical stages. Only one anti-amyloid-aggregation, an aminoglycan compound, and one anti-APO-E approach with rosiglitazone are currently in clinical testing. Stem-cell therapy and gene-replacing therapy remain experimental and far from clinical application. Based on experimental evidence that NGF (nerve growth factor) treatment could provide prolonged protection of the central cholinergic system, i.c.v. infusion of NGF, with genetically modified fibroblasts or gene therapy are under current investigation. NGF treatment could probably double the clinical effect of ChEIs in time. Given the level of scientific and clinical activity it is reasonable to expect that within the next five to ten years a new therapy for AD will, by blocking disease progression, both produce long term stabilization of at least 5 years in patients with AD and prevent or delay emergence in persons at risk for AD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factor / therapeutic use*
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / metabolism
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use*
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • tau Proteins
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Nerve Growth Factor