A commonly used anti-inflammatory drug can be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, claims a new study. The research conducted by a team of researchers from The University of Manchester found that the anti-inflammatory drug completely reversed memory loss and brain inflammation in mice.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, mefenamic acid, is a common Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) used by almost everyone at some point in their lives.
‘Inflammation in the brain makes Alzheimer's disease worse. Mefenamic acid, an anti-inflammatory drug can target an inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which damages brain cells.’
For the first time, an anti-inflammatory drug has been shown to target inflammatory pathway highlighting its importance in the disease model. But, the researchers caution that more research is needed to identify its impact on humans.
In the UK, around 500.000 people suffer from Alzheimer's disease. The condition gets worse over time and affects many aspects of their lives, including the ability to remember, think and make decisions.
The researchers used transgenic mice that developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Group one involved ten mice that were treated with mefenamic acid. Ten mice in group two received a placebo.
The mice were treated at a time when they had developed memory problems. The drug was given to them by a mini-pump implanted under the skin for one month. The researchers found that memory loss was completely reversed back to the levels seen in mice without the disease.
Dr Brough said, "There is experimental evidence now to suggest strongly that inflammation in the brain makes Alzheimer's disease worse. 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."
He added, "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 are known, the time for it to reach patients should, in theory, be shorter than if we were developing completely new drugs."
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, said, "Testing drugs already in use for other conditions is a priority for Alzheimer's Society - it could allow us to shortcut the fifteen years or so needed to develop a new dementia drug from scratch."
"These promising lab results identify a class of existing drugs that have the potential to treat Alzheimer's disease by blocking a particular part of the immune response. However, these drugs are not without side effects and should not be taken for Alzheimer's disease at this stage - studies in people are needed first."
The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Alzheimer's Society. The findings of the study are published in the journal Nature Communications.