Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in the elderly and its prevalence is set to increase rapidly in coming decades. However, there are as yet no available drugs that can halt or even stabilize disease progression. One of the main pathological features of AD is the presence in the brain of senile plaques mainly composed of aggregated β amyloid (Aβ), a derivative of the longer amyloid precursor protein (APP). The amyloid hypothesis proposes that the accumulation of Aβ within neural tissue is the initial event that triggers the disease. Here we review research efforts that have attempted to inhibit the generation of the Aβ peptide through modulation of the activity of the proteolytic secretases that act on APP and discuss whether this is a viable therapeutic strategy for treating AD.
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