New Alzheimer’s Treatment Shows Promise in Animal Tests

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Nitroglycerin combined with an Alzheimer's drug has been shown to reverse brain damage caused by the disease in mice. It's still a long way from being tested on people.

A team of scientists has discovered a drug that, in mice, seems to stop and partially reverse damage done by Alzheimer’s disease.

Their research was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences following a 10-year study, the Orlando Sentinel says.

The scientists at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute tried 37 combinations of two existing drugs, nitroglycerin and memantine, before finding one that seemed to have an impact.

Nitroglycerin is used to treat chest pain, while memantine is already used to treat Alzheimer’s but isn’t very effective on its own, the paper says. The combination of the two is known as NitroMemantine.

“In [mice] models, the hybrid appears to restore synapses — the connections between neurons — lost in the disease process,” the Orlando Sentinel says. It begins to work within a few hours and can restore synapses within a few months. The research team believes it is the first drug to do so.

Other scientists agree the research is promising, the paper notes, but it will be several years before trials are conducted on humans.

Alzheimer’s afflicts an estimated 5.2 million people in the U.S., the Alzheimer’s Association says, with a direct national cost of $203 billion a year. About $34 billion of that is out-of-pocket expense.

You can look at the research study here for $10, but it uses phrases like “extrasynaptic NMDA receptors” and “miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents.”

Stacy Johnson

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