Mitochondria-Targeted Therapeutics for Alzheimer's Disease: The Good, the Bad, the Potential

Yashi Mi, Guoyuan Qi, Roberta Diaz Brinton, Fei Yin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Significance: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia. Thus far, 99.6% of clinical trials, including those targeting energy metabolism, have failed to exert disease-modifying efficacy. Altered mitochondrial function and disruption to the brain bioenergetic system have long-been documented as early events during the pathological progression of AD. Recent Advances: While therapeutic approaches that directly promote mitochondrial bioenergetic machinery or eliminate reactive oxygen species have exhibited limited translatability, emerging strategies targeting nonenergetic aspects of mitochondria provide novel therapeutic targets with the potential to modify AD risk and progression. Growing evidence also reveals a critical link between mitochondrial phenotype and neuroinflammation via metabolic reprogramming of glial cells. Critical Issues: Herein, we summarize major classes of mitochondrion-centered AD therapeutic strategies. In addition, the discrepancy in their efficacy when translated from preclinical models to clinical trials is addressed. Key factors that differentiate the responsiveness to bioenergetic interventions, including sex, apolipoprotein E genotype, and cellular diversity in the brain, are discussed. Future Directions: We propose that the future development of mitochondria-targeted AD therapeutics should consider the interactions between bioenergetics and other disease mechanisms, which may require cell-type-specific targeting to distinguish neurons and non-neuronal cells. Moreover, a successful strategy will likely include stratification by metabolic phenotype, which varies by sex and genetic risk profile and dynamically changes throughout the course of disease. As the network of mitochondrial integration expands across intracellular and systems level biology, assessment of intended, the good, versus unintended consequences, the bad, will be required to reach the potential of mitochondrial therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-630
Number of pages20
JournalAntioxidants and Redox Signaling
Issue number8
StatePublished - Mar 10 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • brain bioenergetics
  • mitochondria
  • neuroinflammation
  • oxidative stress
  • sex differences
  • therapeutics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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