Researchers in China have found that a drug developed to treat symptoms of stroke may hold potential benefits for Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which tested the drug edaravone in mice, is published on Monday 6 April in the journal PNAS.
Scientists at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, set out to investigate the effects of edaravone – which is used in China to treat symptoms of stroke – in cells and on mice bred to develop features of Alzheimer’s disease. Edaravone is not currently licensed for use in the UK.
The team first tested the effects of the drug in cells containing a protein called amyloid, which is known to accumulate in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. They found that edaravone was able to reduce the build-up of amyloid in cells and stop them from dying. The researchers then tested the drug in mice, and compared its effects on mice that had been given a saline solution. The results showed that mice that were treated with edaravone performed better in tests of memory and cognition, while they also had less build-up of amyloid and fewer signs of inflammation in the brain.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This early-stage study suggests that edaravone may have some future beneficial effects in Alzheimer’s, but further work is needed to know whether the drug could help people with the disease. Edaravone is not currently licensed in Europe or the US for the treatment of any condition. More laboratory research and ultimately, large-scale clinical trials would be needed to assess whether edaravone could help people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Currently half a million people are living with Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, and we urgently need new treatments that can fight the disease. For the best chance of success we need to see many approaches explored, and this means it’s vital that we continue to invest in research.”