Researchers may have found a “wonder drug” capable of halting the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The study, published by the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester, claims that two drugs already used safely in people can stop brain cells from dying.
Professor Giovanna Mallucci, lead author of the study, said the discovery is “really exciting”.
She and her team plan to start human trials and said they will know whether the drug works in the next two to three years.
The drugs involved are known as trazodone – commonly used to treat patients with depression – and DBM, used to treat patients with cancer.
They work by shutting down a faulty defence mechanism in the brain whereby it will produce deadly amounts of protein cells.
Mr Mallucci said: “It’s time for clinical trials to see if there’s similar effects in people and put our money where our mouth is.
“We’re very unlikely to cure them completely, but if you arrest the progression you change Alzheimer’s disease into something completely different so it becomes liveable with.
“Both were very highly protective and prevented memory deficits, paralysis and dysfunction of brain cells.”
However, she added: “As a professional, a doctor and a scientist, I must advise people to wait for the results.”
Commenting on the study, Dr Doug Brown, from the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We’re excited by the potential of these findings, from this well conducted and robust study.
“As one of the drugs is already available as a treatment for depression, the time taken to get from the lab to the pharmacy could be dramatically reduced.”