New hope in dementia drug: Drug 'reverses Alzheimer's in mice'

A drug that reverses Alzheimer's in mice has been developed by scientists.

It fuels the production of memory boosting proteins - offering hope of a cure.

The compound also strengthens connections, or synapses, between neurons - improving communication.

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Lead author Dr Mauricio Martins-Oliveira, of New York University (NYU), said it opens the door to treating the causes of dementia.

DEMENTIA DRUG HOPE - New drug 'reverses Alzheimer's in mice'DEMENTIA DRUG HOPE - New drug 'reverses Alzheimer's in mice'
DEMENTIA DRUG HOPE - New drug 'reverses Alzheimer's in mice'
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He explained: "This work is the first to show reversing impaired protein synthesis in brains afflicted by Alzheimer's through a pharmacological approach is not only feasible - but also effective."

What's more, it even worked in advanced stages of the disease - rescuing the activity of cells needed for memory formation.

One of reasons trials of new medications have failed to date is they are prescribed to patients once the condition has already taken hold.

In memory tests, such as navigating a maze, the brainpower of older mice was restored after they were injected with ISRIB (ISR InhiBitor).

The experimental drug works by correcting a chemical pathway called the integrated stress response (ISR).

Co senior author Professor Sergio Ferreira, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said: "The synthesis of new proteins in the brain is essential for proper neuronal function and, notably, for memory consolidation.

"We and others have previously shown impairments in brain protein synthesis contribute memory deficits in Alzheimer's model mice, and the brains of patients exhibit clear signs of impaired protein synthesis.

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"We thus asked ourselves whether rescuing brain protein synthesis might be an approach to improve memory function in Alzheimer's."

The drug stimulates protein production by specifically targeting the translation of genetic codes.

Previously, the same team had shown this is impaired in Alzheimer's - especially in the brain's hippocampus that controls memory.

It led them to suspect ISRIB would re-establish cognitive functions.

Synaptic plasticity - the ability of the brain to change in order to learn - and memory returned to the lab rodents.

The drug also brought back the hippocampal functions and mental abilities of mice with fully developed Alzheimer's-like afflictions, This was after the disease at its most extreme form was mimicked in the animals.

Similarly, the results demonstrated ISRIB regenerated synapses in the hippocampus - as well as memory.

The researchers said repairing protein production with ISRIB is a "promising avenue" in combating Alzheimer's.

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Currently, Alzheimer's treatments focus on the reduction of rogue proteins called beta amyloid and tau that clump together destroying neurons.

The study, published in the journal Science Signaling, provides an alternative potential target for reviving the brain.

ISRIB was created by Prof Peter Walter at the University of California, San Francisco, in 2013.

It reboots cells' protein production machinery after it gets throttled by responses to stress.

Laboratory studies have suggested it can improve memory after traumatic brain injury (TBI) and reverse cognitive impairments in Down Syndrome.

It may also prevent noise-related hearing loss, fight certain types of prostate cancer - and even enhance cognition in healthy individuals.

More than 850,000 people in the UK have dementia - a figure forecast to rise to two million by 2050.

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