A new experimental compound has proven effective for improving memory and cognitive function in aging mice.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh said that the findings could lead to the development of new drugs to prevent memory loss associated with aging.
Led by Brian Walker, professor of endocrinology at the school, Dr. Scott Webster and other associates, the study was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Findings revealed improvements in memory and brain function in just 10 days.
Many people find they become more forgetful or have difficulty in concentrating as they get older. This is generally accepted as a natural part of the aging process.
For some it may present itself as mild forgetfulness. For others, it could be the beginnings of a more serious condition known as dementia.
This type of memory loss has been linked with high levels of ‘stress’ steroid hormones known as glucocorticoids.
An enzyme called 11beta-HSD1 is involved in making these hormones and has been shown to be more active in the brain during aging.
“Normal old mice often have marked deficits in learning and memory just like some elderly people. We found that life-long partial deficiency of 11beta-HSD1 prevented memory decline with ageing,” said Jonathan Seckl, director of research With the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
“But we were very surprised to find that the blocking compound works quickly over a few days to improve memory in old mice suggesting it might be a good treatment for the already elderly.”
The researchers were able to block 11beat-HSD1 by using a new synthetic compound. Specifically, the study demonstrated that the compound improved the ability of older mice to complete a memory task called the Y maze.
“These results provide proof-of-concept that this class of drugs could be useful to treat age-related decline in memory.
“We previously showed that carbenoxolone, an old drug that blocks multiple enzymes including 11beta-HSD1, improves memory in healthy elderly men and in patients with type 2 diabetes after just a month of treatment, so we are optimistic that our new compounds will be effective in humans,” Walker said.
He added that “the next step is to conduct further studies with our preclinical candidate to prove that the compound is safe to take into clinical trials, hopefully within a year.”
Statistics currently suggest that there are 24 million people living with some form of dementia worldwide. Age-related memory loss is expected to grow to 84 million by 2040 without some type of new medical intervention.
Source: University of Edinburgh