Alzheimer’s is one of the most heavily studied, and widely feared, degenerative diseases in modern history. Scientists are struggling to figure out its mechanisms and why it strikes some, but not others. But an experimental drug being tested on mice has been found to have powerful, and unexpected, side effects on aging.
The Salk Institute for Biological Research wasn’t looking for a youth drug. Instead, they were attempting to analyze how aging affects the brain and contributes to Alzheimer’s risk. A drug candidate they were testing, J147, though, had some rather dramatic effects on the mice:
…the team showed that the drug candidate worked well in a mouse model of aging not typically used in Alzheimer’s research. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features…
Or, as they put it in the full paper, the drug is essentially preventing certain metabolic changes that come standard with aging, from leaking blood vessels to memory loss. To be clear, this isn’t the fountain of youth by a long shot, and it’s not clear what impact this might have on Alzheimer’s sufferers or those who may be facing the disease. We’ve never altered the effects of aging in this way before, so there may be consequences we don’t know about yet.
Still, it’s an arresting idea, to say the least, and not least because aging is the primary risk factor for Alzheimer’s. J147 isn’t yet in human trials, but if it works in human beings, it might be a profound breakthrough in treating Alzheimer’s and maintaining quality of life as we age.
(Via The Salk Foundation)