Rapamycin, a drug that keeps the immune system from attacking transplanted organs, may help fight Alzheimer's disease, a new study has revealed.
Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that rapamycin rescued learning and memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's.
Senior author, Salvatore Oddo, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, said that the study offers the first evidence that the drug is able to reverse Alzheimer's-like deficits in an animal model.
The researchers also found that the drug also reduced lesions in the brains of the mice. The lesions are similar to those seen in the brains of people who died with Alzheimer's.
"Our findings may have a profound clinical implication. Because rapamycin is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug, a clinical trial using it as an anti-Alzheimer's disease therapy could be started fairly quickly," said Oddo.
Last year three institutions, including the University of Texas' Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, announced that rapamycin extended the life span of aged research mice at each of the sites.
It was the first pharmacologic intervention shown to extend life in an animal model of aging.
Rapamycin, a bacterial product first isolated in soil from the island Rapa Nui in the South Pacific, also is being tested in cancer research studies. Rapa Nui is commonly known as Easter Island and is distinguished by ancient monoliths with faces.
"While it remains to be determined whether our results obtained in mice could be translated in people, we are very excited as these findings may lead to a new therapeutic intervention to treat Alzheimer's," Oddo said.
The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.