An elixir of youth may be on the horizon after an experimental Alzheimer’s drug had a surprise side-effect of making old mice ‘young’.
Scientists at the Salk Institute in California made the discovery after targeting their research on Alzheimer’s biggest risk factor – old age.
“We didn’t predict we’d see this kind of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were youthful, based upon several physiological parameters,” said said Antonio Currais, a researcher in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk.
J147 takes a different approach to many other drugs developed to combat Alzheimer’s disease. “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,” said David Schubert, senior author of the study. Instead, the treatment focuses on what the researchers say is the most obvious major risk factor for the disease: old age.
The mice were divided into three groups: one group of young mice, one group of old mice, and one group of old mice that had received J147 treatments as they aged.
As the different mice groups were analysed, researchers noticed differences in the old mice who were treated with J147 and the old mice who were not.
The J147 mice seemed to perform better on memory and cognition tests and had fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. The J147 also seemed to prevent blood leakage from blood vessels in the brain, which contribute to Alzheimer’s and other signs of ageing.
The J147-treated mice also had more robust motor movements. In general, the older mice treated with J147 seemed to have metabolism and gene expression similar to that of younger mice, with less brain inflammation, a lower level of oxidized fatty acids in the brain, and increased energy metabolism.
The findings were detailed in the journal Aging. Initial trials with the drug demonstrated it could prevent and reverse memory loss and Alzheimer’s health effects with the inherited type of the disorder in mice.
Encouraged by their results in mice, the researchers say the next step is to move on to human trials of the promising new drug. They are hoping to begin these next year.
Although the drug was originally targeted at treating Alzheimer’s disease, it could show promise for treating other problems associated with ageing including trouble with movement and maybe even wrinkles.