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Anti-aging effects seen in experimental Alzheimer's disease drug

By aiming at the effects of aging, researchers said they are targeting the primary cause of the disease.

By Stephen Feller
Antonio Currais and David Schubert, researchers at the Salk Institute in California, found an experimental drug appeared to reverse the effects of aging in mice with Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms. Photo by Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Antonio Currais and David Schubert, researchers at the Salk Institute in California, found an experimental drug appeared to reverse the effects of aging in mice with Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms. Photo by Salk Institute for Biological Studies

LA JOLLA, Calif., Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Most drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease are aimed at amyloid plaque in the brain that builds up over time. Researchers at the Salk Institute found an experimental drug aimed at reducing the effects of aging reversed symptoms of the disease in mice.

The researchers opted to target aging because it is one of the major causes for development of Alzheimer's disease. They said to correct some of the effects of aging made sense because while plaques are a hallmark of the disease, many treatments developed against them have proven to be less than effective.

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"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," Dr. Antonio Currais, a research assistant at the Salk Institute, said in a press release. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."

Researchers developed J147 using a set of cell-based screening assays that mimic old age-associated neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's pathology. Initial trials with the drug showed it could prevent and reverse memory loss and Alzheimer's health effects in mice with the inherited form of the disease.

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To test the drug with the much more common form of Alzheimer's, researchers measured the expression of genes in the brain and identified molecules involved with metabolism in the brains and blood of rapidly aging mice. J147 was then given to three groups of the mice: a rapidly aging group that was young, a group that was already old, and another old group that received the drug as they aged.

The old mice that received the drug performed better on memory and cognition tests, and had more robust movement, in addition to fewer signs of Alzheimer's in their brains. The researchers also were able to show markers for increased energy metabolism, reduced brain inflammation, lower amounts of oxidized fatty acids in the brain, and a prevention of leakage from blood vessels in their brains -- all of which were similar to the younger group of mice.

The researchers said they hope to begin human trials with the drug next year.

The study is published in the journal Aging.

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