PanARMENIAN.Net - Researchers in Toronto hope a new drug will help people who suffer from memory loss due to old age, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and depression, Citizen Truth reports.
Memory loss is partly linked to levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, whose primary job is to dampen electrical "noise" in the brain by slowing the rate at which neurons fire. Research shows that lowering this background noise allows key signals in the brain to be processed more efficiently.
If the experimental drug proves to safe and effective after all testing is complete, people over 55 can take the pill every day to prevent memory lapses.
A derivative of benzodiazepine, the new drug targets GABA "receptors" in principal parts of the brain involved in cognition, such as the hippocampus.
When tested in a lab, older mice had greatly improved memory skills after just half an hour of receiving the drug. In fact, scientists gave the drug to mice in a maze. The performance of the older mice was nearly as good as that of the younger animals.
"An old mouse will naturally perform at about 50-60 percent on this test. Its working memory is basically not working. But within 30 minutes of administration of the drug, their performance is back up to 80-90 percent, so almost at the level of a young mouse. We have a rapid reversal of age-related working memory deficit and that is exciting," Sibille said.
The drug did not benefit young healthy mice, however. It is not intended to work as a cognitive memory enhancer for healthy people. "It's not a drug a student would take if they wanted to be smarter when they study for their exams," Sibille said.
The next phase of testing the drug is expected to be in humans, more specifically people who suffer from depression. People with mental impairments and memory problems are the most likely to relapse into depression, Sibille explained.
After their latest research the team in Toronto found they could grow brain cells using the drug. The team put the drug in the drinking water of older mice whose brain cells had shrunk. After drinking the drug-infused water for two months, their brain cells grew back.
"We can actually grow the brain cells," Etienne Sibille, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, told the Guardian. "They tend to shrink with age and they shrink in neurodegenerative diseases. What we see is that the cells grow to a level that's pretty close to that in young animals."