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Aging takes its toll on the brain, and the cells of the hippocampus–a brain region with circuitry crucial to learning and memory–are particularly vulnerable to changes that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline. With the hope of counteracting the changes that can lead to these two conditions, researchers at Rockefeller University and their colleagues have begun examining the effects of a drug known to affect this circuitry.
In new research described recently in Molecular Psychiatry, a team led by Ana Pereira, Instructor in Clinical Medicine in Bruce McEwen’s laboratory found that the drug, riluzole, is capable of reversing key genetic changes associated with these conditions.
“In aging and Alzheimer’s, the chemical signal glutamate can accumulate between neurons, damaging the circuitry,” Pereira says. “When we treated rats with riluzole, we saw a suite of changes. Perhaps most significantly, expression of molecules responsible for clearing excess glutamate returned to more youthful levels.”
Previous work in McEwen’s lab by Pereira has shown that the drug prompted structural changes in rats’ neurons that prevent the memory loss often seen in old animals. Pereira is currently testing riluzole for the first time in Alzheimer’s patients in a clinical trial at the Rockefeller University Hospital./.../