Scientists rummaging through Asian medicines have stumbled upon a promising drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is currently used to treat stroke victims.
Known as Edaravone, the commonly prescribed drug in Asia for those who have suffered a stroke, the medicine has shown immense promise. Early trials on mice have shown significant reversal of mental decline typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease. As an added bonus, the drug may aide in improving memory as well as learning abilities, added the researchers.
A team of researchers from Australia and China reported that the drug appears to work through multiple pathways – which is where other potential drugs have failed.
Alzheimer’s, which affects millions each year, is commonly triggered when amyloid beta proteins and tau proteins build up in the brain and form toxic protein fragments known as plaques and tangles. These kill nerve cells and break down cognitive function. Though a few path-breaking treatments are being evaluated, there’s no mainstream drug that effectively addresses the disease, shared Xin-Fu Zhou, the lead researcher from the University of South Australia.
“Edaravone can bind the toxic amyloid peptide which is a major factor leading to degeneration of nerve cells. It is a free radical scavenger which suppresses oxidative stress that is a main cause of brain degeneration.”
In simpler terms, the drug prevents the build-up of toxic material that steadily degenerates cells, which eventually leads to loss of cognitive functions. Testing the drug on mice, the team showed that the drug effectively blocks the toxic function of the amyloid beta cells, which in turn stops these from choking and eventually killing off brain cells.
But what’s even more exciting is that the drug doesn’t stop there, continued Zhou.
“It also inhibits the Tau hyperphosphorylation which can generate tangles accumulated in the brain cells and disrupt brain functions.”
In other words, the drug seems to effectively combat both the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. When genetically altered mice were administered with Edaravone, they performed better in memory and cognition tests as they aged, and also had less amyloid build up and inflammation in the brain.
Does this mean we have a ready cure for Alzheimer’s disease?
Not yet, cautioned Simon Ridley, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“This early-stage study suggests that Edaravone may have some future beneficial effects in Alzheimer’s, but further work is needed to know whether the drug could help people with the disease.”
This simply means, unless the drug passes human trials in which patients are being specifically treated for Alzheimer’s disease, Edaravone cannot be prescribed.
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