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Commentary

When the dust settles: what did we learn from the bexarotene discussion?

Ina Tesseur12 and Bart De Strooper12*

Author Affiliations

1 VIB Center for the Biology of Disease, Herestraat 49, box 602, Leuven BE3000, Belgium

2 Center for Human Genetics and Institute of Neuroscience and Disease (LIND), KU Leuven and Universitaire Ziekenhuizen, Leuven B-3000, Belgium

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Alzheimer's Research & Therapy 2013, 5:54  doi:10.1186/alzrt218

Published: 7 November 2013

Abstract

With 27 million people affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD), any proposal of a novel avenue for drug development is hot news. When Cramer and colleagues proposed last year that they could tackle AD pathology in an AD mouse model with bexarotene, a drug already in use in the clinic for other diseases, the news was covered worldwide by the popular press. Apolipoprotein E4 is the strongest genetic risk factor for AD and bexarotene appeared to exert spectacular effects on AD pathology when tested in APP/PS1 transgenic mice. One year later the slumbering discussion on the use of bexarotene in AD exploded in a flurry of papers. Four papers question the initial optimistic claims, while two others can only partially support the original work. We summarize here the available data and try to make sense out of the controversy. The major question is what we can learn from the experiments and what these studies imply for the further development of bexarotene in the clinic.