Using already tested and approved drugs for a new purpose is a new and growing trend. It allows saving time and introducing new therapies quicker and cheaper. Now scientists from the University of Waterloo have discovered that antidepressant medications can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. While antidepressants, of course, will not cure the disease, they can slow down its progression and help with some symptom management.
In short, selective serotonin uptake inhibitors were found to delay the development and growth of amyloid-beta proteins. These proteins clump together in Alzheimer’s patient’s brain and form plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s. Scientists say that these findings are providing hope for future drug development and can help millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s right now. For example, in Canada alone there are currently over 500,000 people with dementia. There are no truly effective drugs and development of them takes years. Using a safe antidepressant could provide a quicker relief while the research continues.
It is important to understand that Alzheimer’s disease is progressive – it worsens over time. People are left with damaged memory, impaired cognitive ability, lost independence. Dementia severely impacts the quality of life and eventually costs lives. Alzheimer’s disease occurs when amyloid-beta proteins in the brain clump together and form plaques. These plaques get in a way of information transfer in the brain and it slowly deteriorates. Furthermore, around 50 % of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s also have depression. It is important, because it reduces the quality of life and makes people lose hope. However, then these people can take antidepressants, which, as scientists have discovered now, could delay the progress of the disease.
Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors are effective at treating the symptoms of depression. But now scientists found that they can do much more. SSRI slows down the growth of amyloid-beta proteins and delays the onset of the plaques. Praveen Nekkar, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our results can also inform future drug development. The chemical structure of SSRIs presents a type of blueprint for how to develop a medication that will prevent amyloid beta aggregation. We can explore developing new drugs based on that model to treat Alzheimer’s”.
The good news is that SSRI can be prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients right now – most of them have depression. But even better news is that these findings could inspire a new series of researches that could spark the development of even more potent Alzheimer’s medication.
Source: University of Waterloo