Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia associated with aging, and treatments generally focus on reducing plaques in the brain. A team of researchers decided to take a different approach, treating Alzheimer’s by targeting aging itself.
The research comes from scientists at the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk Institute and was published in the November 12th issue of the journal Aging. For the study, the researchers used a drug they had previously developed, called J147. They analyzed gene expression in the brain in addition to metabolism-related molecules in the brain and blood of a type of mice chosen because they age rapidly. The mice were divided into three groups: one group of young mice, one group of old mice, and one group of old mice that had received J147 treatments as they aged.
As the different mice groups were analyzed, researchers noticed differences in the old mice who were treated with J147 and the old mice who were not. The J147 mice seemed to perform better on memory and cognition tests and had fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. The J147 also seemed to prevent blood leakage from blood vessels in the brain, which contribute to Alzheimer’s and other signs of aging. The J147-treated mice also had more robust motor movements. In general, the older mice treated with J147 seemed to have metabolism and gene expression similar to that of younger mice, with less brain inflammation, a lower level of oxidized fatty acids in the brain, and increased energy metabolism.
The data seems to support that not only did the J147 drug help prevent Alzheimer’s disease in the mice as they aged, but it also seemed to prevent more general signs of aging. The drug seemed to help the mice maintain a younger state of both mental and physical health. The researchers said these wide anti-aging effects were unexpected, and the older J147-treated mice looked biologically young.
Alzheimer’s Disease is associated with a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain, and most drug research for Alzheimer’s has focused on reducing the amount of plaque in the brain. These researchers decided that since Alzheimer’s is associated with aging, it might be a better approach to target Alzheimer’s by reducing the rate of aging itself. The drug in this study seemed to not only target Alzheimer’s but also other signs of aging that can be harmful to health and quality of life. Previous studies had shown that J147 could be effective in helping prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s in mice who had a certain form of the disease, but who did not represent the majority of Alzheimer’s cases. The drug was synthesized by using cell-based screens against aging-associated brain toxicities.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia in seniors and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The disease affects more than five million people in the U.S. alone, along with their families, and occurs in about six percent of people over the age of sixty-five. This brain disorder, associated with symptoms like confusion, poor memory, getting lost, social withdrawal, and changing behavior, gets progressively worse as time goes by. Although there are some drugs and other treatments that can help slow the disease’s progression in some patients, there is no cure.
Encouraged by their results in mice, the researchers say the next step is to move on to human trials of the promising new drug. They are hoping to begin these human trials of the drug next year. Although the drug was originally targeted at treating Alzheimer’s disease, it could show promise for treating other problems associated with aging including trouble with movement and maybe even wrinkles.