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article imageAlzheimer's Disease: Study finds existing drug may cure dementia

By Marcus Hondro     Aug 14, 2016 in Science
There have been many encouraging studies on Alzheimer's Disease and other dementia in recent years, but a new study out of the U.K. could be the most promising yet. The study found that an existing drug may be applied to Alzheimer's to great effect.
Build-up of plaque
Researchers at the University of Manchester studied a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug called mefenamic acid, already on the market to relieve menstrual pain. They found that in mice the drug reverses dementia by eliminating the plague that builds up between nerve cells in the brain that transmit signals, leaving the patient with a fully-restored memory.
In the study, published Thursday, August 11 in the science and medical journal 'Nature Communications,' researchers took 20 mice with memory problems similar to those humans face with Alzheimer's. Ten were given regular dosages of mefenamic acid, the other group of 10 were given a placebo.
They found no change in the memory and abilities of the group given the placebo but the group given the anti-inflammatory regained complete memory function and regained abilities they had lost. Dr. David Brough, the study leader, said the drug targeted a pathway to the brain called the NLRP3 inflammasome and removed the build-up of amyloid plague that causes dementia.
"Until now no drug has been available to target this pathway," Dr. Brough said. "So we are very excited by this result."
He warned the drug is not ready for dementia patients and could produce harmful side effects. He also said that "mouse models don't always faithfully replicate the human disease" and more study is needed to determine if the drug "will tackle the disease in humans."
Alzheimer's research
There have been a host of trials and studies on drugs and treatments for Alzheimer's and other dementia in recent years and medical professionals say the hope for a cure is stronger than ever. There are also research initiatives underway that show promise for the early detection of Alzheimer's.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are some 47.5 million cases of Alzheimer's and other dementia worldwide and it is on the rise, with 7.7 million new cases developing each year. Alzheimer's Disease makes up 60 to 70 percent of all dementia cases. Currently there is no known cure.
It is unclear when more study on mefenamic acid will be completed and when, if it proves effective in humans, it could hit the market. But given much is already known about the drug, including its toxicity and pharmacokinetics, researchers say it would take far less time than the 15 years it takes for a new drug to go from being studied to being prescribed.
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