Antidepressant could slow onset of Alzheimer's
New research from the University of Pennsylvania and the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that a commonly-used antidepressant may be helpful in slowing the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers first bred mice with Alzheimer's disease and analyzed the levels of the peptide amyloid beta (AB), in the brain. High levels of AB are associated with the plaque deposits in the brain tied to Alzheimer's. After giving the mice the antidepressant known as citalopram, the level of AB fell by 25 percent, compared to the control group. After two months of antidepressants, the growth of new plaques in the mice was reduced and existing plaques did not grow any further. However, the team noted that the drug did not cause existing plaques to shrink or decrease in number.
To test this concept on humans, the team then selected 23 healthy adults between 18 and 50 years old and gave each a single dose of citalopram, while monitoring the levels of AB in their cerebrospinal fluid. Researchers said AB levels dropped by 38 percent in the 37-hour period after treatment, compared to a placebo test.
The researchers say the antidepressants work by essentially “clipping” the AB molecules so that they weren’t able to function properly. More research is needed but the team noted that this antidepressant potentially could be used to slow the progression of the disease 10 to 15 years before it becomes apparent.
Alzheimer's experts pointed out that while the study showed promising results, it involved a small sample of people, none of whom had Alzheimer's or were over 50.