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Local research could impact how Alzheimer’s, dementia are treated in the future

SAN ANTONIO – Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, but researchers at UT Health San Antonio are hoping their recent study could prevent the disease or other related dementias.

Researchers studied the impact of Rapamycin, which is used to prevent organ transplant rejection, on rats. They wanted to know if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug could impact blood circulation to the brain and possibly improve memory.

Researchers fed rats with food that had the medication starting at the age of 19 months, which is past middle age in rat years, until they were 34 months old.

“We found out whether it would make a big difference as to how they aged, whether they would preserve their ability to make new memories, to remember where they have been,” said Veronica Galvan, professor of cellular and integrative physiology at UT Health San Antonio.

Researchers discovered there was no change in blood flow to the brain in the rats that received the drug. The untreated rats had a loss of blood flow to the brain and loss of memory.

“What we’ve found is that with aging, blood flow to the brain is decreased. And we think that that might link the aging brain to this increased risk for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” said Candice Van Skike, a postdoctoral fellow at UT Health San Antonio.

Researchers also tested the drug on mice. They demonstrated how a mouse that was treated with the drug was able to get on top of a platform quickly when placed in a water container. The untreated mouse couldn’t find it.

Researchers are hoping to be able to apply this science to the way memory loss is treated in humans.

“The goal is to study the pathways that affect brain aging and by having a drug that can target this pathway. It’s really powerful because we could potentially change the way that Alzheimer’s disease progresses,” Van Skike said.

The next step will be to conduct this study on humans.


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