In a study released yesterday, researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California showed they were able to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that lead to dementia using an experimental drug, NitroMemantine, which combines two FDA-approved medicines. Researchers said improvements were seen within hours.
The decade-long study shows that NitroMemantine can restore synapses, representing the connections between nerve cells that have been lost during the progression of Alzheimer's in the brain. The findings are described in a paper published June 17 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the study, researchers focussed on changes in brain chemistry caused by an increase in amyloid beta peptides associated with Alzheimer's. They found that amyloid beta peptides prompted the release of dangerously high amounts of the neurotransmitter glutamate. The new drug protects synapses from elevated glutamate levels.
"NitroMemantine brings the number of synapses all the way back to normal within a few months of treatment in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. In fact, the new drug really starts to work within hours," said Dr. Stuart Lipton, director of the Del E. Webb Center for Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research at Sanford-Burnham.