Scientists Accidentally Discover a Breakthrough Treatment for Alzheimer's

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Scientists find that a drug meant for another illness may significantly help Alzheimer's patients.

Scientists found a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by testing an existing drug used for another illness. Researchers from Lancaster University in the UK discovered that a drug developed for type 2 diabetes has "significantly reversed memory loss" in mice. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and affects nearly 44 million people around the world, according to 2016 stats from Alzheimer’s Disease International. In the United States alone, 5.3 million people suffer from the illness. And these numbers are expected to keep rising. 

Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University, the lead researcher on the project, said the new treatment "holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.”

Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, said that there have been no new treatments in nearly 15 years and this kind of research is promising. 

"With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer',” said Brown. ”It's imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them."

The so-called “triple receptor drug” used by the scientists acts in multiple ways in order to protect the brain from degeneration. The transgenic mice that were treated in the study had the same mutated genes that cause Alzheimer's in humans. After treatment, the mice underwent a maze test which found that their learning and memory formation were markedly improved. The mice also exhibited increased levels of brain growth factors which shield nerve cell functioning. They also had less chronic inflammation, slower rate of nerve cell loss and showed a reduced amount of amyloid plaques in their brains - a build-up of proteins linked to Alzheimer’s. 

"Here we show that a novel triple receptor drug shows promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's but further dose-response tests and direct comparisons with other drugs have to be conducted in order to evaluate if this new drugs is superior to previous ones," said Professor Holscher.

Check out this video from Lancaster University that explains their accomplishment:

You can read the study here, published in Brain Research.