Rapamycin Reverses Alzheimer's Deficits in Animal Study
Rapamycin, a drug used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, has demonstrated an ability to reverse memory and learning deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. The drug also reduced lesions in the brains of mice, similar to those seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
The new discoveries about rapamycin were made by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. According to Salvatore Oddo, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at the University, the findings “may have a profound clinical implication.” This latest discovery joins earlier findings by three institutions, including the University’s Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, that rapamycin can extend the life span of aged mice.
Results of the life-extending study were reported in the journal Nature in July 2009. It involved nearly 2,000 mice and found that compared with mice who did not receive treatment, administration of rapamycin extended the lifespan of mice by more than 100 days, the equivalent of about 13 years on average in humans.
In the current study, the research team fed rapamycin-laced chow to mice that modeled Alzheimer’s disease. The mice were six weeks old at the beginning of the ten-week treatment period, which is young adulthood for mice, but they already showed signs of learning and memory deficits and brain lesions typical of Alzheimer’s disease.
At the end of the treatment period, the mice were tested using a technique called the Morris water maze, which allows researchers to evaluate learning and memory in rodents. The brains of the mice were then analyzed. Treated mice demonstrated a reversal of memory and learning problems and reduced lesions in the brain.
Because rapamycin has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for another use, researchers can move rather quickly into a clinical trial of rapamycin as an anti-Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Along with the drug’s apparent ability to extend lifespan, at least in mice, rapamycin’s possible role in reversing deficits associated with Alzheimer’s is of vast interest, as currently there are no effective treatments for the disease.
Harrison DE et al. Nature 2009 July 16; 460(7253): 392-95
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio release, Feb. 24, 2010