Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease increasing in frequency as life expectancy of the world's population increases. There are an estimated 5 million diagnosed AD patients in the U.S. and 16 million worldwide with no adequate treatment presently available. New therapeutic approaches are needed to slow, and hopefully reverse, disease progression. This review summarizes available information regarding an overlooked therapeutic target that may offer a treatment to slow and hopefully halt AD, namely the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/c-Met receptor system. Activation of the c-Met receptor stimulates mitogenesis, motogenesis, morphogenesis, the ability to mediate stem cell differentiation and neurogenesis, and protects against tissue insults in a wide range of cells including neurons. This growth factor system has recently been shown to induce dendritic arborization and synaptogenesis when stimulated by a newly developed angiotensin-based analogue, N-hexanoic-Tyr-Ile-(6) amino hexanoic amide (Dihexa). This small molecule was derived from the pre-prototype molecule Nle1-angiotensin IV and has shown promise in facilitating the formation of new functional synaptic connections and augmenting memory consolidation in animal models of AD. Dihexa is a first-in-class compound that is orally active, penetrates the blood-brain barrier, and facilitates memory consolidation and retrieval. This angiotensin-based small molecule may be efficacious as a treatment for AD.
Keywords: $AT_4$ receptor subtype; $Nle^1$-Angiotensin IV; Alzheimer's disease; Dihexa; angiotensin IV; c-Met receptor; hepatocyte growth factor.