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Anti-inflammatory drug shows promise for Alzheimer's disease treatment

Mefenamic acid reversed memory problems in mice, suggesting the NSAID could do the same for humans, say researchers.

By
Stephen Feller
The NSAID mefenamic acid, used to help control menstrual pain, may also have an effect on reversing memory problems linked to Alzheimer's disease, researchers report in a recent study. Photo by University of Manchester
The NSAID mefenamic acid, used to help control menstrual pain, may also have an effect on reversing memory problems linked to Alzheimer's disease, researchers report in a recent study. Photo by University of Manchester

MANCHESTER, England, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- A common anti-inflammatory drug reversed memory problems similar to Alzheimer's disease in mice, suggesting inflammation makes the disease worse and that treating inflammation may lessen its effects.

The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug mefenamic acid, marketed as Ponstel, helped fix memory problems in mice, according to researchers at the University of Manchester, though researchers say trials in humans are necessary.

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Previous studies have shown brain inflammation contributes to the intensification of Alzheimer's disease, which researchers say makes it an obvious target for treatment.

Ponstel is a prescription NSAID used to control mild-to-severe pain, specifically pain and blood loss during menstruation. The drug targets an inflammatory pathway called NLRP3 inflammasome, which can damage brain cells -- which is why the researchers tested it in mice with Alzheimer's-like symptoms.

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"Until now, no drug has been available to target this pathway, so we are very excited by this result," Dr. David Brough, a researchers at the University of Manchester, said in a press release. "However, much more work needs to be done until we can say with certainty that it will tackle the disease in humans as mouse models don't always faithfully replicate the human disease."

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For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers treated two groups of 10 mice with Alzheimer's disease symptoms, giving one mefenamic acid through a miniature pump implanted under their skin for one month and the other a placebo delivered the same way.

Memory loss in mice treated with the drug had Alzheimer's symptoms reverse, seeing memory return to levels seen in mice without the disease.

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While the drug showed potential, and already is used for treatment in humans, the researchers say further research will be needed to identify potential side effects in patients taking it for Alzheimer's, as well as establish whether it is effective.

"Because this drug is already available and the toxicity and pharmacokinetics of the drug is known, the time for it to reach patients should, in theory, be shorter than if we were developing completely new drugs," Brough said. "We are now preparing applications to perform early phase II trials to determine a proof-of-concept that the molecules have an effect on neuroinflammation in humans."

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