Brain and Body

Alzheimer’s Drug Shocks Researchers with Unexpected Anti-Aging Effects

November 19, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Old women laughing. Elderly. Aged.
Photo credit: TheArches/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Forever young?

Researchers were astounded when their study of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug, J147, produced some unanticipated results. Through their experimentations on mice, the drug demonstrated anti-aging effects, improving a number of the rodents’ physiological features.

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California examined the impact of the experimental drug, finding that J147 boosted the animals’ cognition and memory, and also promoted healthier blood vessels in the brain.

“Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer’s cases,” Antonio Currais, a researcher in the institute’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, said in a press release. “We did not predict we’d see this sort of anti-ageing effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters.”

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David Schubert, senior author of the study, informs that most Alzheimer’s drugs developed in the past two decades target amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, “which are a hallmark of the disease,” he says. However, none have proven effective in the clinic, so these researchers shifted their study’s focus to the most evident risk factor for acquiring Alzheimer’s: old age.

To experiment with J147’s effect on old age, the researchers tested the drug on three different groups of mice genetically bred to age rapidly — young mice, old mice, and old mice on a diet which incorporated J147.

The researchers designed a set of experiments to test the rodents’ memory, cognition, and motor movements, determining that the old mice who were fed J147 performed better than those who hadn’t been given the drug. Not to mention, they showed fewer signs of Alzheimer’s in their brains.

Additionally, the J147-fed mice displayed certain physiological traits that were more similar to those of the younger mice — increased energy metabolism, reduced brain inflammation, and reduced levels of oxidized fatty acids in the brain, according to the press release.

In the United States alone, over 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, so any breakthrough medications to combat the disease would make a huge impact. "If proven safe and effective for Alzheimer's, the apparent anti-aging effect of J147 would be a welcome benefit," says Schubert.

Human trials are set to begin next year, so fingers crossed that our species has the same reaction to J147 as the mice. If so, humans might finally be able to combat the trials of old age.

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