NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 2 (UPI) -- A drug used to prevent normal cells from turning cancerous significantly improved the memory of rats in a new study conducted at Rutgers University.
While the study was conducted with dementia in mind, the researchers said the treatment could potentially also be used with people who have delayed language learning disabilities or those recovering from a disease or injury.
"Memory-making in neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease is often poor or absent altogether once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease," said Dr. Kasia Bieszczad, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, in a press release. "This drug could rescue the ability to make new memories that are rich in detail and content, even in the worst case scenarios."
In the study, rats were trained by researchers to listen for a sound in order to receive a reward. The researchers gave some of the trained rats RGFP966, an HDAC inhibitor used with cancer patients to prevent normal cells in the body from turning cancerous. The drug also makes neurons more plastic, allowing them to make better connections that enhance memory.
The rats given the drug remembered what they'd been taught at a higher rate than those not given the drug. Bieszczad said rats who received RGFP966 also were more "tuned in" to sounds during the training, because of the drug's effects on their brains.
Bieszczad said that memories are normally recalled with limited detail, however the study showed that memories could be established closer to the actual experience rather than being sparse or limited. The drug also could be used for patients other than those with dementia-related conditions.
"People learning to speak again after a disease or injury as well as those undergoing cochlear implantation to reverse previous deafness, may also be helped by this type of therapeutic treatment in the future," said Bieszczad. "The application could even extend to people with delayed language learning abilities or people trying to learn a second language."
The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.