Shown for the first time in a study with mice.
Scientists are feverishly working towards discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and perhaps a viable option has been right under our noses this whole time: mefenamic acid, a drug commonly used for period pain.
The researchers in a new study say that nearly everybody will take mefenamic acid, which is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID), at some point in their lives.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Manchester outline a study in which they treated mice, which were genetically-engineered to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms, with mefenamic acid. There was also a control group of mice treated with a placebo so the researchers could compare the results.
Incredibly, the team, led by Dr. David Brough, observed that the drug completely reversed memory loss and brain inflammation in mice in just one month. The drug was delivered throughout the month via a mini-pump implanted under the skin.
“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,” Dr. Brough explained in a press release.
"Until now, no drug has been available to target this pathway, so we are very excited by this result.”
However, although the results seen in the mice are exciting, there’s a lot of work to do before we can determine whether we would see the same success in humans — and unfortunately, many results seen with mice don’t translate over to humans. Plus, the researchers note that the drug is “not without side effects and should not be taken for Alzheimer's disease at this stage - studies in people are needed first."
But the good news is that the process will likely unfold much quicker than trials with other novel experimental treatments since the drug in question is already FDA-approved.
“Testing drugs already in use for other conditions is a priority for Alzheimer's Society - it could allow us to shortcut the fifteen years or so needed to develop a new dementia drug from scratch,” said Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer's Society.
The researchers have their work cut out for them before they can say with certainty that mefenamic acid could tackle Alzheimer’s, but they’re already preparing applications to perform early phase II trials to show whether these molecules will have an effect on brain inflammation in humans.