Novel pharmacotherapy: NNI-362, an allosteric p70S6 kinase stimulator, reverses cognitive and neural regenerative deficits in models of aging and disease

Nathalie Sumien, Matthew S. Wells, Akram Sidhu, Jessica M. Wong, Michael J. Forster, Qiao Xi Zheng, Judith A. Kelleher-Andersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aging is known to slow the neurogenic capacity of the hippocampus, one of only two mammalian adult neurogenic niches. The reduction of adult-born neurons with age may initiate cognitive decline progression which is exacerbated in chronic neurodegenerative disorders, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease (AD). With physiologic neurogenesis diminished, but still viable in aging, non-invasive therapeutic modulation of this neuron regeneration process remains possible. The discovery of truly novel neuron regenerative therapies could be identified through phenotypic screening of small molecules that promote adult-born neurons from human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs). By identifying neuron-generating therapeutics and potentially novel mechanism of actions, therapeutic benefit could be confirmed through in vivo proof-of-concept studies. The key aging and longevity mTOR/p70S6 kinase axis, a commonly targeted pathway, is substrate for potential selective kinase modulators to promote new hippocampal neurons from NPCs. The highly regulated downstream substrate of mTOR, p70S6 kinase, directly controls pleiotropic cellular activities, including translation and cell growth. Stimulating this kinase, selectively in an adult neurogenic niche, should promote NPC proliferation, and cell growth and survival in the hippocampus. Studies of kinase profiling and immunocytochemistry of human progenitor neurogenesis suggest that the novel small molecule NNI-362 stimulates p70S6 kinase phosphorylation, which, in turn, promotes proliferation and differentiation of NPCs to neurons. NNI-362 promoted the associative reversal of age- and disease-related cognitive deficits in aged mice and Down syndrome-modeled mice. This oral, allosteric modulator may ultimately be beneficial for age-related neurodegenerative disorders involving hippocampal-dependent cognitive impairment, specifically AD, by promoting endogenous hippocampal regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Allosteric modulator
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • BrdU neuron survival
  • Hippocampal neuron regeneration
  • Human neural progenitors
  • mTOR/p70S6 kinase axis


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