When things don’t go your way initially, they say you should think outside the box. That’s exactly what the scientists at the Salk Institute did while developing new methods for treating Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is not only the most common form of dementia, but it is also the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. It has been recorded that approximately 5.3 million Americans had the disease in 2015.
Most of the drugs that have been used in the past 20 years target the amyloid plaque deposits that accumulate in the brain. However, since these methods have proven to be inefficient, the researchers at the Salk Institute decided to approach the problem differently and tackle the disease’s main cause, old age. Based on brain toxicities that are associated with old age, Professor David Schubert and his colleagues synthesized a drug called J147.
The research team decided to use mice to test the efficiency of J147. They bred mice that would age rapidly and experience a version of dementia that is fairly similar to the age-related human disorder. By testing the drug on mice, the researchers found that J147 can improve memory and cognition, as well as improve the health of blood vessels in the brain. Though unanticipated, the research team also found that the drug made the old mice look as though they were younger based on certain physiological features. The J147 was tested on 3 groups of rapidly aging mice: one set of young, one set of old, and one set of old that was fed the drug as the mice aged. The researchers then used a series of assays to measure the expressions of all genes in the brain, the molecules involved with metabolism in the brain, and the blood of these three groups.
The group of old mice that received the drug displayed better motor movements and also had better results in memory and cognition tests. The most remarkable result was that the brains of the mice which received the doses of J147 showed fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The mice were also evaluated in terms of their metabolism, brain inflammation, and levels of oxidized fatty acids in the brain. The mice in the third group were observed to have increased energy metabolism, reduced brain inflammation, and reduced levels of oxidized fatty acids. These results support the resemblance of traits from this group to those of young animals.
One symptom of old age that is made worse by Alzheimer’s disease is damage to blood vessels in the brain. With that being said, the discovery that J147 could prevent the leakage of blood from the micro-vessels in the mice’s brains was astonishing.
The remarkable effect that J147 had on mice leaves the researchers optimistic, and they are preparing for human clinical trials which will take place next year. These trials will prove whether or not the drug will show equally successful results in humans.
Hopefully, this drug discovery will create a more efficient way to treat Alzheimer’s disease patients. The outcome of the research was possible all because Schubert and his colleagues thought outside of the box.
To read the Salk Institute’s article, click here.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from the Alzheimer’s Association, click here.
Editor: Rachel Levy