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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 11:07 GMT
Painkillers may prevent Alzheimer's
Memory loss is an early sign of dementia
Memory loss is an early sign of dementia
Scientists in America have found that standard painkillers such as ibuprofen could delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

But the doses currently needed to produce the desired effect are currently too high to be given to humans.

Fundamental new research such as this brings hope to people with dementia and their carers

Alzheimer's Society
However, the scientists hope the medicines, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), could be modified to produce an effective treatment.

The study, led by Edward Koo at the University of California in San Diego, found that three NSAIDs were effective in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer's in mice.

They worked by blocking the action of harmful plaque-forming proteins which destroy the brain cells, causing Alzheimer's.

However, the anti-inflammatory properties of the drugs did not appear to be significant in this process.

In addition, the doses needed were dangerously high for humans and could cause ulcers or stomach bleeding.

'Devastating Disorder'

Commenting on the findings, Bart De Strooper, a molecular biologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium said: "If the findings can be extended to people, these drugs could join the Ivy League of potential treatments for this devastating neurodegenerative disorder."

Dr Richard Harvey, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This exciting new research clearly shows that the NSAIDs have the ability to alter the processing of one of the key proteins, called amyloid, in Alzheimer's disease.

"Even more promising is the evidence that this ability to modify plaque formation is not related to the anti-inflammatory properties of the NSAIDs.

"This opens the new possibility of developing new drugs based on NSAIDs that could slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease without the unwanted side effects of the NSAIDs."

He added: "Fundamental new research such as this brings hope to people with dementia and their carers, although it will be many years before we know whether these findings will lead us to a new drug treatment that can be used humans."

Alzheimer's disease affects millions of people world-wide and is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly.

There is no cure for the disease but therapies are available to reduce symptoms and increase cognitive function.

The study is detailed in the journal Nature.

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Health
Alzheimer's 'link' to small heads
20 Jul 01 | Health
Alzheimer's therapy hope
28 Jun 01 | Health
A portrait of Alzheimer's
18 Jun 01 | Health
Genetic clue to Alzheimer's risk
06 Jun 01 | Health
Vaccine hope for Alzheimer's
20 Dec 00 | A-B
Alzheimer's disease
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