A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown the positive effects a drug commonly used to treat strokes in some Asian countries known as Edaravone has on Alzheimer’s disease.
Nerve cells with accumulation of proteins, characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease (left). Healthy cells with no toxic proteins (right).
A team of scientists from China and Australia have found that the medication alleviates the problem of cognitive decline characteristic of Alzheimer’s and simultaneously enhances memory and learning. Furthermore, the action of Edaravone seems to be linked with multiple pathways – this is also what differentiates it from other drugs.
Alzheimer’s disease is brought about through the accumulation of amyloid beta proteins and tau proteins that ultimately produces plaques and tangles in the form of toxic protein fragments that cause the death of nerve cells thereby affecting cognitive ability. Edaravone has been shown to get rid of the amyloid toxicity.
“Edaravone can bind the toxic amyloid peptide which is a major factor leading to degeneration of nerve cells,” said the lead researcher from the University of South Australia, Xin-Fu Zhou. “It is a free radical scavenger which suppresses oxidative stress that is a main cause of brain degeneration.”
The researchers came to this conclusion after testing the drug on mice.
They first observed the action of the drug in laboratory. Edaravone prevented the amyloid beta cells from acting as toxins and thus protected brain cells from dying. Furthermore, it also stopped the aggregation of tangles in brain cells by inhibiting Tau hyperphosphorylation, thereby preserving the normal functioning of the brain. Upon witnessing these positive effects, they decided to test the drug on mice.
Genetically modified mice were made to have accumulation of amyloid in their brain cells. A group of the mice were administrated Edaravone, and were compared to a control group. The former displayed better memory and performed better in cognition tests. Furthermore, less amyloid built up in their cells, and they thus had reduced inflammation in the brain as opposed to the latter.
These results indicate that the drug Edaravone might be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. However, people should not yet use it as a treatment for the disease since nothing is confirmed for humans; further research needs to be done before conclusive statements can be formulated.
A fellow scientist not involved in the study, Simon Ridley, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, cautioned the public in a statement:
“This early-stage study suggests that Edaravone may have some future beneficial effects in Alzheimer’s, but further work is needed to know whether the drug could help people with the disease,” he said.