Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California have developed an experimental medication that can help address the effects of Alzheimer's disease by slowing down the aging process.
In a study featured in the journal Aging, Antonio Currais and his fellow researchers at the institute's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory examined the impact of a candidate drug known as J147 on major risk factors of Alzheimer's disease.
Experimenting on mouse models, the Salk researchers discovered that J147 was able to help make the blood vessels in the animals' brain become healthier as well as boost their cognition and memory.
"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," Currais said. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-ageing effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health classifies Alzheimer's disease as a progressive and irreversible disorder of the brain that results in the slow deterioration of an individual's memory and thinking skills to the point where he or she cannot carry out even the simplest of tasks.
People with this debilitating illness typically develop symptoms during their mid-60s.
Health experts believe around five million people living in the United States may be susceptible to Alzheimer's disease.
David Schubert, a co-author of the Salk study, explained that while most medications created in the last two decades address the buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain, which is a known indicator of Alzheimer's, none of them have been shown to be effective in a clinical setting.
Instead of targeting the amyloid plaque, the researchers focused on aging, one of the main risk factors of the disease. They synthesized the J147 drug through the use of cell-based screens designed to address brain toxicities associated with aging.
The research team discovered that the new drug is capable of preventing and reversing the effects of Alzheimer's and memory loss in laboratory mice engineered to inherit a form of the disease.
This version of Alzheimer's, however, only accounts for around one percent of disease cases. Schubert said the remaining cases are still associated with old age.
Schubert and his colleagues made use of a comprehensive set of essays to examine all known gene expressions in the brain and more than 500 molecules linked to the metabolism of the blood and brains of three different sets of rapidly ageing laboratory mice.
The sets of mice consisted of one group that was old, one group that was young and one that was old but fed with the experimental J147 drug as they progressed.
The mice that were given the medication showed fewer signs of Alzheimer's disease. They also displayed an increase in energy metabolism, reduced inflammation and reduced oxidized fatty acid levels, markers that were similar to those of younger mice.
The microvessels in the animals' brain also had less blood leakage.
The Salk researchers are set to continue their study by conducting trials on humans in 2016.
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