Developing therapeutic antibodies for neurodegenerative disease

Neurotherapeutics. 2013 Jul;10(3):459-72. doi: 10.1007/s13311-013-0187-4.


The central nervous system has been considered off-limits to antibody therapeutics. However, recent advances in preclinical and clinical drug development suggest that antibodies can cross the blood-brain barrier in limited quantities and act centrally to mediate their effects. In particular, immunotherapy for Alzheimer's disease has shown that targeting beta amyloid with antibodies can reduce pathology in both mouse models and the human brain, with strong evidence supporting a central mechanism of action. These findings have fueled substantial efforts to raise antibodies against other central nervous system targets, particularly neurodegenerative targets, such as tau, beta-secretase, and alpha-synuclein. Nevertheless, it is also apparent that antibody penetration across the blood-brain barrier is limited, with an estimated 0.1-0.2 % of circulating antibodies found in brain at steady-state concentrations. Thus, technologies designed to improve antibody uptake in brain are receiving increased attention and are likely going to represent the future of antibody therapy for neurologic diseases, if proven safe and effective. Herein we review briefly the progress and limitations of traditional antibody drug development for neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on passive immunotherapy. We also take a more in-depth look at new technologies for improved delivery of antibodies to the brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / immunology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / therapy*


  • Antibodies