Cancer Drug May Improve Memory in Dementia, Alzheimer's

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A cancer drug may also help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in improving their memory, based on a study in rats.

Kasia M. Bieszczad, PhD, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., and colleagues examined the drug RGFP966, an HDAC inhibitor that has been shown to stop the activation of genes that turn normal cells cancerous.

In the brain, the drug is thought to make neurons more plastic, allowing them to make connections and thus changes that can enhance memory. This is important in Alzheimer’s and dementia, where brain cells die because synapses that transmit information between neurons are weak and unstable.

Rodents that were given RGFP966 were more "tuned in" to the relevant acoustic signals they heard during their training, the Rutgers researchers reported in the Journal of Neuroscience. In addition, the hypersensitivity in processing auditory information enabled the neurons to reorganize and create new pathways, allowing more of the information they learned to become a long-term memory.

“Memory-making in neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease is often poor or absent altogether once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease,” Bieszczad said in a statement. “This drug could rescue the ability to make new memories that are rich in detail and content, even in the worst case scenarios.”

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The drug, RGFP966, is thought to make neurons more plastic, allowing them to make connections and thus changes that can enhance memory.

Can you imagine a drug that would make it easier to learn a language, sharpen your memory and help those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease by rewiring the brain and keeping neurons alive?

New Rutgers research published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that a drug — RGFP966 — administered to rats made them more attuned to what they were hearing, able to retain and remember more information, and develop new connections that allowed these memories to be transmitted between brain cells.

What happens with dementias such as Alzheimer's is that brain cells shrink and die because the synapses that transfer information from one neuron to another are no longer strong and stable. There is no therapeutic treatment available that reverses this situation.

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