Leveraging preclinical models for the development of Alzheimer disease therapeutics

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2020 Jul;19(7):447-462. doi: 10.1038/s41573-020-0065-9. Epub 2020 Apr 8.


A large number of mouse models have been engineered, characterized and used to advance biomedical research in Alzheimer disease (AD). Early models simply damaged the rodent brain through toxins or lesions. Later, the spread of genetic engineering technology enabled investigators to develop models of familial AD by overexpressing human genes such as those encoding amyloid precursor protein (APP) or presenilins (PSEN1 or PSEN2) carrying mutations linked to early-onset AD. Recently, more complex models have sought to explore the impact of multiple genetic risk factors in the context of different biological challenges. Although none of these models has proven to be a fully faithful reproduction of the human disease, models remain essential as tools to improve our understanding of AD biology, conduct thorough pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic analyses, discover translatable biomarkers and evaluate specific therapeutic approaches. To realize the full potential of animal models as new technologies and knowledge become available, it is critical to define an optimal strategy for their use. Here, we review progress and challenges in the use of AD mouse models, highlight emerging scientific innovations in model development, and introduce a conceptual framework for use of preclinical models for therapeutic development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Development / methods*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers