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Can Aspirin Cure Alzheimer's Disease? Study Suggests Drug May Reduce Amyloid Plaques In Dementia Patients

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Taking low doses of aspirin daily may help reduce the effects of Alzheimer's disease and protect the memory, findings of a new study suggest.

In a new study published in the July issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, Kalipada Pahan, from Rush Medical College, and colleagues showed that aspirin intake can decrease the plaques in the brain, which are associated with dementia and memory loss.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, affects about a tenth of older Americans. The Alzheimer's Association reported in March that Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia will cost Americans $277 billion this year.

No cure is currently available to reverse the condition. Existing medications only provide limited symptomatic relief but researchers suggest that certain lifestyle such as getting enough sleep and exercise can help prevent the development of this neurological disease.

Amyloid Plaques

The exact cause of the disease progressions is not known. However, poor disposal of the toxic protein amyloid beta in the brain is one of the leading mechanisms behind dementia and memory loss.

Amyloid beta forms clumps of amyloid plaques that can damage the connections between the nerve cells. These amyloid plaques are also one of the major signs of Alzheimer's disease.

In the new study involving mice, the researchers were able to show that aspirin reduces amyloid plaque pathology by stimulating the lysosomes, a component of the animal cell that clears cellular debris.

Researchers also found that in mice with Alzheimer's-like conditions, aspirin helped increase TFEB, another protein that regulates waste removal. The drug also decreased the amyloid plaques in the animals.

"Understanding how plaques are cleared is important to developing effective drugs that stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease," Pahan said.

Aspirin

The researchers said that their study adds another potential use for aspirin. Also known as acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin is an inexpensive drug with a long history of being safe for use in low doses, albeit it poses a small risk for internal bleeding and stomach irritation.

Many adults use this medicine for pain relief and as a mild blood thinner to prevent cardiovascular events. Studies also show it may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

"Aspirin, one of the most widely-used medications in the world, activates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα) to upregulate TFEB and increase lysosomal biogenesis in brain cells," the researchers wrote in their study.

"Low-dose aspirin decreases cerebral plaque load in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease via PPARα."

Photo: Sage Ross | Flickr

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