Can Alzheimer’s be reversed?

A new drug gives diseased mice their memories back.

Yale researchers have discovered a tiny compound that could lead to big improvements in the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Although it hasn’t been tested on humans yet, researchers say the drug reverses the cognitive effects of the disease in mice.

The compound is called TC-2153, and it works by lowering the levels of a protein in the brain called STEP. Too much STEP interferes with the brain’s ability to learn and remember. Alzheimer’s mice have elevated STEP levels—but when given TC-2153 and tested on a number of cognitive tasks, says Paul Lombroso, lead author of the study, they were able to learn just as well as healthy mice.

Lombroso, a professor of neurobiology and psychology at the Yale School of Medicine, gives an example from the study (which was published in August in the journal PLOS Biology): researchers ran both Alzheimer’s mice and healthy mice through a water maze with a hidden platform. Healthy mice can be trained to learn the location of the platform—but Alzheimer’s mice can’t learn, because they can’t remember. However, when the Alzheimer’s mice were given TC-2153, says Lombroso, they too could be trained over several days to remember where the platform was: “They were able to turn short-term memories into long-term memories.”

The next step is to give TC-2153 to other animals with cognitive defects, to see if it has the same effect. The search is also on for other compounds that lower STEP levels. Though the initial focus has been on Alzheimer’s disease, Lombroso says the research has the potential to benefit people with several disorders in which STEP levels are elevated, including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and fragile X syndrome.

1 comment

  • Carol D. Schaefer
    Carol D. Schaefer, 2:49pm November 13 2014 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I think everyone over 50 should contribute!!!! This work is really going to make a difference.

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