A new study found that a drug used to treat arthritis may be an effective solution to the reversal of Alzheimer's disease symptoms. Although the experiments were performed in laboratory mice, the findings are still able to provide hope that an effective treatment against dementia may soon be available.

Salsalate, which is most commonly used to treat inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, became the sparkplug of this Alzheimer's disease research as scientists found that it can prevent the formation of a specific brain protein called tau, which when acetylated may cause various brain impairments.

Tau acetylation is a chemical mechanism that alters the properties and functionalities of the protein. This process was found to be toxic for the brain, causing degeneration of brain cells and damage in cognition. As per previous post-mortem studies of people with Alzheimer's disease, this particular mechanism were found to be present in the subjects' brains.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the scientists used laboratory mice with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which also entails tau acetylation. When salsalate was administered to subjects, the tau levels in the brain declined, causing the stoppage of memory deficits and the shrinking of the hippocampus, which facilitates memory formation. Specifically, the researchers impeded the p300 enzyme using salsalate and eventually, the subjects' memories were recovered.

The p300 enzyme in the brain is usually increased in patients with Alzheimer's disease and is also known to activate acetylation processes. But by blocking this mechanism, tau proteins undergo a turnover and subsequently prevent dementia-associated events.

Focusing on the acetylation of the tau protein could possibly be an emergent therapeutic approach against pathological tau processes in humans such as Alzheimer's disease and FTD, said Eric Verdin, MD, co-senior author of the study and a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes. Because salsalate is a prescription medicine, which has long been known to have a plausible safety profile, the team thinks that the drug can have a critical clinical association.

According to the U.S.-based researchers, it is the first time that a medicine has demonstrated complete reversal of all the toxic events brought about by the tau protein.

Salsalate is already being prescribed in patients with arthritis and for this, the mechanism of action as well as its side effects are already known, said Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer's Society. The thing left to do now is to confirm whether it works for patients diagnosed with dementia.

Salsalate is also being investigated in another clinical trial for progressive supranuclear palsy, which is also a neurological disorder. The results of this new clinical trial may help confirm the essentiality of salsalate to dementia treatment.

Subjecting current treatments to clinical trials that aim to repurpose it may provide hope for discovering new dementia solutions in the next five to years. This is the reason why Alzheimer's Society is presently sponsoring researches like this, including one that involves a type 2 diabetes drug and another arthritis medication, Brown closed.

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