Experimental Alzheimer's drug shows unexpected anti-aging effects
Researchers from the Salk Institute forBiological Studies in California have tested an experimental drug onrapidly-aging mice, with the treatment designed to combat aspects ofaging closely associated with Alzheimer's. The results were verypositive, with treated mice exhibiting better memory, cognition andmore.
Alzheimer's is a widespread andprogressive disease that chiefly affects the elderly. There arecurrently more than five million people with the condition in theUnited States alone.
The Salk research is looking to tacklethe disease from a new angle. It expands upon a previous studyconducted back in 2013, working with a potent memory-enhancing andneurotrophic drug called J147. Unlike most medicines designed tocombat the disease, J147 was synthesized after looking atage-associated brain toxicities, and looks to tackle the major riskfactor for the disease – old age itself.
The older research looked at the effectof J147 on mice with an inherited form of Alzheimer's, finding thatit was able to prevent and even reverse memory loss in subjects.While that was promising, inherited Alzheimer's is far less commonthan cases of the disease triggered by old age.
The new study looked to discoverwhether the experimental drug is as effective at fighting Alzheimer'scaused by old age, which is responsible for 99 percent of cases. Oncethe results were in, things were looking very positive, with theresearchers surprised by how effective it had proved.
"We did not predict we'd see thissort of anti-aging effect," says lead author Antonio Currais. "ButJ147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number ofphysiological parameters."
The team introduced J147 to a breed ofrapidly-aging laboratory mice, measuring its effect on genes in thebrain, as well as more than 500 small molecules involved in theanimals' metabolism. Three groups were tested, one young and two old, of which one was treated with J147 for some seven months and theother not.
The results were very positive, withthe treated elderly mice performing better in memory tests andexhibiting better motor functions. They also showed less pathologicalsigns of Alzheimer's in their brains, and generally shared moreaspects of their gene expression and metabolism with the younger setof mice. Overall, J147 was found to have protective effects on thecentral nervous system, with the ability to tackle aspects of agingclosely associated with Alzheimer's.
While further study will be necessarybefore any sweeping statements can be made regarding the potentialimpact that the new treatment might have on sufferers of the disease,it's clear that J147's focus on treating the risk factor of thedisease is having a big impact on its success, in mice at least. Weshouldn't have to wait too long to find out if it's effective on people, with the team hoping to start human trials in 2016.
The researchers published the findingsof their study in the journal Aging.