Researchers from John Hopkins University have discovered that low doses of a drug commonly used to treat epilepsy can actually reverse a process that increases the risk of having Alzheimer's disease. Apparently, the drug restores brain function and memory in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
The said drug, anti-epileptic levetiracetam, can calm hyperactivity in the brain of patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) which is clinically recognized as a condition wherein memory impairment has increased abnormally for a person's age. Thus, it increases the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.
They found out that low doses of the drug improved memory performance, and normalized the hyperactivity detected by MRI scans. According to Alzheimer's Association, around 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the country. Apparently, there are 500,000 Americans dying from the disease each year.
"What we've shown is that very low doses of the atypical antiepileptic levetiracetam reduces this over-activity. At the same time, it improves memory performance on a task that depends on the hippocampus," said Neuroscientist Michela Gallagher, the lead researcher of the team.
In the study published in the journal NeuroImag: Clinical, the researchers analyzed and studied 84 people with an average age of 70. They received various doses of the medicine and placebo. Then, the researchers mapped their brain activities through brain imaging.
Gallagher, the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, is the pioneer and member of the scientific board of AgeneBio. It is a biotechnology company that aims to develop treatments for diseases that affect brain function, Science Daily reports.
Meanwhile, Gallagher and her team aims to pursue substantial clinical trials, "What we want to discover now, is whether treatment over a longer time will prevent further cognitive decline and delay or stop progression to Alzheimer's dementia."