A translational continuum of model systems for evaluating treatment strategies in Alzheimer's disease: isradipine as a candidate drug

Dis Model Mech. 2011 Sep;4(5):634-48. doi: 10.1242/dmm.006841. Epub 2011 May 19.


A growing body of evidence supports the 'calcium hypothesis' of Alzheimer's disease (AD), which postulates that a variety of insults might disrupt the homeostatic regulation of neuronal calcium (Ca(2+)) in the brain, resulting in the progressive symptoms that typify the disease. However, despite ongoing efforts to develop new methods for testing therapeutic compounds that might be beneficial in AD, no single bioassay permits both rapid screening and in vivo validation of candidate drugs that target specific components of the Ca(2+) regulatory machinery. To address this issue, we have integrated four distinct model systems that provide complementary information about a trial compound: the human neuroblastoma MC65 line, which provides an in vitro model of amyloid toxicity; a transgenic Drosophila model, which develops age-dependent pathologies associated with AD; the 3×TgAD transgenic mouse, which recapitulates many of the neuropathological features that typify AD; and the embryonic nervous system of Manduca, which provides a novel in vivo assay for the acute effects of amyloid peptides on neuronal motility. To demonstrate the value of this 'translational suite' of bioassays, we focused on a set of clinically approved dihydropyridines (DHPs), a class of well-defined inhibitors of L-type calcium channels that have been suggested to be neuroprotective in AD. Among the DHPs tested in this study, we found that isradipine reduced the neurotoxic consequences of β-amyloid accumulation in all four model systems without inducing deleterious side effects. Our results provide new evidence in support of the Ca(2+) hypothesis of AD, and indicate that isradipine represents a promising drug for translation into clinical trials. In addition, these studies also demonstrate that this continuum of bioassays (representing different levels of complexity) provides an effective means of evaluating other candidate compounds that target specific components of the Ca(2+) regulatory machinery and that therefore might be beneficial in the treatment of AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drosophila / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Isradipine / administration & dosage
  • Isradipine / pharmacology
  • Isradipine / therapeutic use*
  • Manduca / drug effects
  • Manduca / embryology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type
  • L-type calcium channel alpha(1C)
  • Protective Agents
  • Isradipine