Could a Common Drug Return Stolen Memories

Alzheimer’s disease treated with mefenamic acid, common NSAID

Alzheimer’s may be one of the saddest diseases to watch overtake a loved one. It often begins with mild memory loss and can progress to the inability to have a conversation. Though once a hopeless diagnosis, new research suggests that finding a cure may be closer than imagined.

According to a press release issued by the University of Manchester, a new study found that mefenamic acid–a common Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) used for period pain–successfully treated an experimental model of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2013, the CDC estimated that about five million Americans suffered from the disease, a number that is expected to triple by 2050.

Alzheimer’s affects the part of the brain that controls thought, memory and language, and when the disease progresses, it can make accomplishing everyday tasks impossible. Age is the best known risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, followed by family history.

To conduct the study, researchers from the University of Manchester used transgenic mice that developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s. They treated one group of 10 mice with mefenamic acid and one group of 10 mice with a placebo. To administer the drugs to the mice, researchers implanted a mini-pump under their skin for a month.

Before the treatment, the mice suffered from memory problems. The treatment completely reversed the mice’s memory loss, as well as their brain inflammation.

“There is experimental evidence now to strongly suggest that inflammation in the brain makes Alzheimer’s disease worse,” says lead researcher Dr. David Brough in the press release. Dr. Brough hails from the University of Manchester. He continues:

“Our research shows for the first time that mefenamic acid, a simple Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug can target an important inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which damages brain cells.”

Researchers say that more studies need to be done before prescribing the drug to human patients. However, because mefenamic acid is already available and its toxicity and pharmacokinetics are already known, patients shouldn’t have to wait as long as they would for a brand new drug.

“We are now preparing applications to perform early phase II trials to determine a proof-of-concept that the molecules have an effect on neuroinflammation in humans,” concludes Dr. Brough in the press release.

The full study was published in Nature Communications. It was funded by the Alzheimer’s Society. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

University of Manchester, “Treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease possible”
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/uom-tof080916.php
CDC, “Alzheimer’s Disease”
http://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm
Nature Communications, “Fenamate NSAIDs inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome and protect against Alzheimer’s disease in rodent models”
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/