Rationale: The interest for acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease has been greatly renewed owing to the discovery of a broad range of additional cholinergic and non-cholinergic effects, exploitable to maximize the efficacy of these drugs beyond merely improving intellectual functions at the symptomatic level.
Objectives: The age-dependent cognitive decline in the valid APP23 transgenic mouse model for Alzheimer's disease was employed to evaluate disease-modifying efficacy of chronic treatment with donepezil.
Materials and methods: At age 6 weeks, heterozygous APP23 mice and control littermates were subcutaneously implanted with osmotic pumps delivering saline or donepezil (0.27 or 0.58 mg/kg per day). After 2 months of treatment, a 3-week wash-out period was allowed to prevent bias from sustained symptomatic effects before cognitive evaluation in the Morris water maze commenced.
Results: Donepezil (0.27 mg/kg per day)-treated APP23 mice performed significantly better than their sham-treated counterparts during the Morris water maze acquisition phase and the subsequent probe or retention trial. Chronic donepezil (0.27 mg/kg per day) treatment improved spatial accuracy in APP23 mice as to reach the same level of performance as wild-type control animals on this complex visual-spatial learning task.
Conclusion: This is the first study reporting disease-modifying efficacy of donepezil at the level of cognitive performance in transgenic mice modeling Alzheimer's disease.