July 2 (UPI) -- Daily low doses of aspirin may help reduce the effects of Alzheimer's disease and protect memory, according to a new study.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center showed that aspirin decreases plaques in the brain that are leading mechanisms in dementia and memory loss. The team published results of their study in the July issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
"The results of our study identifies a possible new role for one of the most widely used, common, over-the-counter medications in the world," said Kalipada Pahan, chair of neurology and professor of neurological sciences, biochemistry and pharmacology at Rush Medical College.
Alzheimer's disease is a fatal form of dementia that affects up to 1 in 10 Americans age 65 or older. The exact cause of the disease is not known, but poor disposal of the toxic protein amyloid beta in the brain is a leading factor. The proteins form clumps called amyloid plaques, which harm connections between nerve cells.
The FDA has approved very few drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's and related dementia. The medications that do exist can only provide limited relief of symptoms.
But activating the cellular machinery responsible for removing waste from the brain is a promising strategy for slowing the disease down.
Building on previous studies demonstrating a link between aspirin and reduced risk and prevalence of Alzheimer's disease, Pahan's team showed amyloid plaque pathology can be decreased with aspirin because it stimulates lysosomes -- the part of animal cells that help clear cellular debris.
Another protein called TFEB regulates waste removal. For one month, mice genetically modified to have Alzheimer's-like conditions were given aspirin, and then were evaluated for the amount of amyloid plaque in the parts of the brain most affected by the disease.
They found that the aspirin increased TFEB, stimulated lysosomes and decreased amyloid plaque in the mice.
"This research study adds another potential benefit to aspirin's already established uses for pain relief and for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases," said Pahan. "More research needs to be completed, but the findings of our study has major potential implications for the therapeutic use of aspirin in AD and other dementia-related illnesses."