An experimental drug that was developed to treat depression could also help battle the memory loss effects associated with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have discovered. In tests involving mice, a team from UCLA’s Drug Discovery Lab showed that the “A03” drug increased brain levels of a particular enzyme which improves memory. The mice in the study had been genetically modified to have a protein called ApoE4, which is the most common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s. By giving them the drug, the researchers found that it resulted in improved memory, suggesting that it might be useful for cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s patients.
“About two in three people with Alzheimer’s have the ApoE4 variant, and so this experimental drug candidate could be tested in human subjects after additional preclinical testing is completed, especially in Alzheimer’s patients carrying the ApoE4 variant,” Varghese John, a medicinal chemist and associate professor of Neurology at UCLA, told Digital Trends.
The mice in the study were treated for 56 days, during which they saw increased levels of the positive enzyme, called SirT1, in the hippocampus region of the brain one, of the main brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s. In addition, they found that the mice showed improvement in memory tests.
At present, an estimated 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide, that number rises to around 50 million and someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds. Although there has been promising research in both ways to diagnose and potentially treat Alzheimer’s earlier on, so far there has been no proven cure or effective treatment that is capable of stopping its progression.
This latest piece of research is still at its relatively early stages, but if its findings can be replicated in humans it could turn out to be a game changer. To take this work forward, the researchers are now carrying out additional preclinical testing on A03 to evaluate its potential. They are also looking at variations of the drug to see if any of them are more effective than the parent molecule. Hopefully, a clinical trial will follow in the near future.
A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.