Experimental Dementia Drug May Have Anti-Aging Effects

Credit: Artur Coelho

Researchers at the Salk Institute working on an experimental Alzheimer's drug have discovered it may have a host of anti-aging effects too. 

Building on previous work

Research had already been conducted on the drug candidate, J147, with the aim of targeting Alzheimer's. The results showed the drug could help prevent and even regenerate; reversing memory loss and a form of inherited Alzheimer's disease in mice subjects. While this form comprises only 1% of Alzheimer's cases, the biggest risk factor for the remainder is old age. If you could target brain aging itself, risk factors would be significantly reduced.

"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases. We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters"

Because of the intriguing results, the team decided to test the drug on a strain of mice that age rapidly, and experience an early onset form of the disease more similar to the majority of Alzheimer's cases in humans. The vast majority of Alzheimer's efforts have been focused on the amyloid plaque that builds up in the disease, but progress has been slow and amyloid treatments haven't proved effective. There is hope that targeting other fundamental processes may prove more potent in the clinic, and J147 arose from screening for substances that might protect against age-related damage. 

"While most drugs developed in the past 20 years target the amyloid plaque deposits in the brain (which are a hallmark of the disease), none have proven effective in the clinic" 

Prevent and repair

In the latest research on mice with J147, the team used a series of assays to measure gene activity and levels of over 500 molecules involved in key processes like metabolism; to obtain an in depth look at what was happening inside treated cells. After detailed comparison of different age groups, mice given J147 showed diminished Alzheimer's pathology - performing better in memory tests and with better motor movement. Because of the assay detail, they also established multiple age-associated markers had become more 'youthful'. These included energy metabolism, lower fatty acid oxidation levels, and also reduced inflammation. Intriguingly, the drug also seemed to reduce leakage of blood from vessels, a feature which commonly causes more damage in Alzheimer's patients. 

While this study only hints at potential benefit, moving forward with human trials on J147 could reveal similar benefits. 

"If proven safe and effective for Alzheimer's, the apparent anti-aging effect of J147 would be a welcome benefit"

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