Can a common anti-inflammatory drug reverse Alzheimer's? Researchers from The University of Manchester found that mefenamic acid, a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that's used for period pain, completely reversed memory loss and brain inflammation in mice.
Mefenamic acid, an oral capsule available by prescription to treat moderate pain and menstrual pain, is sold under the brand name Ponstel, but is also available in a generic version. It works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation in the body.
The study is the first time a drug has been shown to target this inflammatory pathway, but team leader David Brough cautions that more research is necessary to determine its impact on humans, and the long-term implications of its use.
In the study, mice were used whose genes had been altered to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's, and they had already developed symptoms of the disease. One group of 10 mice was treated with mefenamic acid, which was given to them by a mini-pump implanted under the skin for one month, and 10 mice were treated with a placebo.
In mice given the drug, memory loss was completely reversed to the levels seen in mice without the disease.
"There is experimental evidence now to strongly suggest that inflammation in the brain makes Alzheimer's disease worse," said Brough.
"Our research shows for the first time that mefenamic acid, a simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, can target an important inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which damages brain cells."
"Until now, no drug has been available to target this pathway, so we are very excited by this result.
"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.
"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 is preparing early phase II trials to test the drug in humans.
"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."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and it's the sixth leading cause of death. Experts expect the number of seniors with Alzheimer's to triple by 2050.
Study results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
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