A drug normally used by patients suffering from asthma attacks called montelukast appears to protect the brains of rats from the effects of old age like memory loss, inflammation, and loss of cognitive performance. The paper, entitled “Structural and functional rejuvenation of the aged brain by an approved anti-asthmatic drug”, is published in Nature Communications.
It all started when lead author of the study, Ludwig Aigner, from the Paracelsus Medical University in Austria, decided to determine whether there was a correlation between cognitive decline and an inflammatory asthma molecule.
Aigner and his team gave the rats the asthma drug called montelukast that is normally used to block inflammation over six weeks. The rats were categorised into two groups as per age; the older ones were showing signs of ageing.
The results showed that brain inflammation was reduced while the growth of new neurones was stimulated following the consumption of the drug.
It is to be noted that inflammation of the brain is a normal process that accompanies old age; brain cell production is slowed down, thereby impacting negatively on memory and cognition. Scientists have attempted to delay the process, or even to reverse it, specially in cases of mental diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia that account for an acceleration of the process.
When the memory of the two groups of rats were tested, it was found that, while the older rats had to struggle at first, their performance was enhanced after consuming the drug, nearly becoming equivalent to the younger mice. They also had more new neurones, and less inflammation, than older rats not fed with the drug.
“The important thing is that while we saw effects on neurogenesis, we also saw effects on other systems in the brain,” Aigner says in a statement to The Guardian. “The drug reduces neural inflammation in the brain. But we also looked at that blood-brain barrier and that is partially restored. We know in aged brains that the blood-brain barrier is leaky and that contributes to neural inflammation.”
The drug will now have to be tested in humans suffering from dementia.