Posted on: 23/08/2016
Could an Anti Inflammatory Drug Hold the Key to Effective Treatment for Alzheimer’s?
Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 62% of people diagnosed. There is currently no known cure, and the disease costs the UK economy £30,000 per person affected per year.
Some of the recent research has focussed on a link between inflammation in the brain and the disease. Inflammation is the body’s natural defence mechanism against damage or infection. While usually beneficial, inflammation is known to play a role in Alzheimer’s where it may contribute to damage to cells in the brain.
It is early days but it seems researchers led by Dr David Brough at the University of Manchester have made a breakthrough. The team set out to investigate whether any existing anti- inflammatory drugs could be used to remedy the type of inflammation known to be present in Alzheimers Disease. Their work, published on the 11th August in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrated that a commonly used anti-inflammatory drug completely reversed memory loss and brain inflammation in mice. Mefanamic acid is a non- steroidal anti inflammatory drug currently used for minor complaints such as period pain.
“There is experimental evidence now to strongly suggest that inflammation in the brain makes Alzheimer’s Disease worse” said Dr Brough
“Our research shows for the first time that mefanamic acid, a simple non steroidal anti inflammatory drug can target an important inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which damages brain cells. Until now, no drug has been available to target this pathway so we are very excited by the result”.
The next stage of the research will look at the effect of mefanamic acid as part of a human trial. However, Dr Brough urges caution:
“Much more work needs to be done until we can say that it will tackle the disease in humans as mouse models don’t always faithfully replicate the human disease”.
As the drug is already in existence for human use, if the next stages of the trial prove positive it should not take as long as a new drug to reach patients.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
“Testing drugs already in use for other conditions is a priority for Alzheimer’s Society- it could allow us to shortcut the fifteen years or so needed to develop a new dementia drug from scratch. These promising lab results identify a class of drugs that have potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease by blocking a particular part of the immune response. However, these drugs are not without side-effects and should not be taken for Alzheimer’s disease at this stage- studies in people are needed first.”
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