The number of people living with Alzheimer’s is expected to double by 2030, and scientists are looking at any way in which this disease could be slowed or stopped. This week researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine, USA announced that a commonly prescribed antidepressant, Citalopram, may be a step in the right direction.
The drug may be able to help reduce the production of one of the main components in brain plaques thought to cause Alzheimer’s. A build-up of these plaques has been linked to the memory problems and cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Slowing the production of the plaques may be one way to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The scientists tested the drug on mice and found that the antidepressant was able to stop the growth of plaques. Just one dose of the drug was enough to lower the production of amyloid beta (the primary ingredient in brain plaques) by 37 per cent in healthy adult mice.
In a follow up study, researchers gave a single dose of Citalopram to 23 healthy adult humans who were not depressed or suffering mental decline. Samples were taken of their spinal fluid over the following 24 hours, which revealed that amyloid beta production had declined by 37 per cent.
Researchers have warned, however, that these are very early results, and that, although antidepressants are often well tolerated, many do come with side-effects, making it a risky treatment option.
You can find out more at the BBC News website.