Cancer Drug May Help Alzheimer's Patients
The Columbia University Medical Center study, published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, finds a cancer drug from a family of compounds -- HDAC inhibitors -- improved memory performance in Alzheimer's mice to the level found in normal mice.
Lead author Dr. Ottavio Arancio says the cancer drug targeted a defect in the brains of mice with Alzheimer's that affected how the brain recorded new memories.
New memories are created as brain neurons manufacture new proteins. To do this, DNA containing the instructions for making the proteins must be opened and read by attaching a chemical reactive group to the spool around which DNA is tightly wound.
"These groups, called acetyls, unwind the DNA to make it more accessible," study co-author Yitshak Francis said in a statement. "It's like unwinding knitting wool from its spool."
Mice with a form of Alzheimer's disease attached only half as many acetyls to DNA as normal mice. The cancer drug increased the DNA's spool acetylation and gene transcription, the study said.