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Clinical Trial


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SC Clinical and Translational Science Institute

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USC Neuroscience

USC School of Pharmacy

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Brinton Laboratory

The goals of our research are to discover why the aging brain develops Alzheimer’s disease and based on this knowledge develop strategies to prevent, delay and treat Alzheimer’s. To achieve these goals, we have investigated mechanisms of bioenergetic and regenerative aging of the brain.

The brain is the most energetically demanding organ of the body and as such is acutely vulnerable to reduction in fuel supply, metabolic capacity and mitochondrial generation of ATP. Bioenergetic aging of the brain is a potential driver of the lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Our research has demonstrated that ovarian steroids and neurosteroids are key mechanistic regulators of the bioenergetic and regenerative systems of the brain. Moreover, loss of ovarian hormones leads to activation of a sequence of compensatory responses that ultimately lead to development of Alzheimer's pathology.

Translationally, bioenergetic and regenerative pathways activated by ovarian steroids  and neurosteroids provide the basis for personalized interventions that target stages of bioenergetic aging in both the female and male brain to prevent, delay and treat Alzheimer's disease. 

Research in my laboratory uses a spectrum of investigative strategies including genomic, biochemical, cellular, imaging, translational and clinical studies in human.

USC Professors Recieve NIH Funding for Clinical Trial of Alzheimer's Drug

Grant will take potential regenerative therapeutic into clinical trial, building on years of research by USC School of Pharmacy professor Roberta Brinton

Contact: Kukla Vera at or (323)442-3497; Suzanne Wu at or (213) 74-0252

September 18, 2013 -- USC Professors Roberta Diaz Brinton of the USC School of Pharmacy and Lon Schneider of the Keck School of Medicine of USC are principal investigators of a newly funded study from the National Institutes of Health, aimed at testing promising drugs for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

The USC project, “Allopregnanolone Regenerative Therapeutic for MCI/Alzheimer’s: Dose Finding Phase 1,” is the first clinical trial to evaluate the safety and tolerability of using allopregnanolone, a natural brain steroid, in treating mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, as part of an intensified national effort to find effective interventions for the degenerative brain disease.

“The NIA grant provides an extraordinary opportunity to advance our discovery and translational research on allopregnanolone (Allo) to a clinical trial,” said Brinton, who holds the R. Pete Vanderveen Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development at the USC School of Pharmacy. “Our research has shown that Allo activates neural stem cells in the brain to generate new nerve cells and to restore cognitive function while also reducing the pathology of Alzheimer's. Allo is the first regenerative therapeutic for Alzheimer's that has the potential to regenerate nerve cells and the pathways necessary for memory. We are excited to begin the clinical trial of Allo and to advance innovative therapeutic approaches for this devastating disease."

With $2.4 million in new funding from the NIH, announced today, the study builds on Brinton’s research that has shown that "Allo" promotes the generation of new brain cells, reduces amyloid levels, and restores cognitive function in pre-clinical animal testing. The clinical trial will evaluate the safety and tolerability of the drug over 12 weeks.

The study is among the first to be developed with direction from the 2012 NIH "Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit: Path to Treatment and Prevention," and reflects research goals in the "National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease," according to the announcement from the National Institutue of Aging, the lead agency within the NIH for Alzheimer's research.

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National Institute on Aging Program Project Grant Awarded

The Perimenopause in Brain Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Program Project will determine how the brain changes during the perimenopausal transition and how these changes can lead to development of early risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of these studies is the early identification of those at greatest risk for developing AD and the window of opportunity for interventions to prevent Alzheimer's disease in those at greatest lifetime risk, postmenopausal women.              

Neurosteroids as regenerative agents in the brain: therapeutic implications

Roberta D. Brinton
Nature Reviews Endocrinology 9, 241-250 (2013)

The ageing brain retains the capacity for regeneration. This Review highlights the potential of the neurosteroid allopregnanolone as a regenerative therapeutic to promote self-renewal and repair in the brains of ageing individuals and those with Alzheimer disease. Windows of therapeutic opportunity for regeneration, and critical systems- biology factors that will determine the efficacy of regeneration are considered.
Click to download free publication

University of Southern California