Alzheimer's disease is a major public health issue with as many as 5.1 million Americans suffering from this irreversible, progressive neurological disorder. Though research on Alzheimer's disease has made substantial progress, effective therapies to definitively prevent, treat, or cure the disease are still lacking. Amid this backdrop, scientists have come up with evidence to prove that an epilepsy drug could help with Alzheimer's-related memory loss.
One of the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is progressive memory loss. In an animal model of the disease, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes have discovered that Levetiracetam - an FDA-approved drug commonly prescribed for patients who suffer from epilepsy, reverses memory loss and alleviates other Alzheimer's-related impairments. In the U.S., Levetiracetam has been in use under the brand name Keppra since 1999. Generic versions of the drug have been available since 2009.
According to the Gladstone scientists, administration of Levetiracetam to mice reduced abnormal network activity in their brains by 50% in less than a day. The neurons' ability to communicate with each other improved after two weeks of treatment. The mice also showed better learning and memory in a maze test. Several proteins that are important for healthy brain function are said to have returned to normal levels following treatment.
This is not the first time that Levetiracetam has been proposed to play a beneficial effect on Alzheimer's-related impairments. A study published by Johns Hopkins University just a few months ago had also revealed beneficial effects of Levetiracetam in a small group of patients with mild cognitive impairment, a condition that often precedes Alzheimer's.
But that said, Lennart Mucke, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, cautions that until larger human trials have been completed, Levetiracetam shouldn't be prescribed for Alzheimer's disease.
by RTT Staff Writer
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