The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may be reversed by a common epilepsy drug, according to scientists at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Valproic acid (VPA) blocks the build up of the neurotoxic protein beta amyloid plaque, which damages nerve cells and fibres.
Professor Weihong Song, who led the research, said: “In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, VPA reduced plaque formation and further prevented brain cell death and axon damage. It also improved memory performance.
“We are very excited about these results because we now know when VPA should be administered to be most effective and we now know how VPA is working to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
Not only did valproic acid shrink plaques in the brains of mice with a version of Alzheimer’s disease, it even prompted damaged nerves to start repairing themselves.
VPA had less of an effect as the disease progressed, suggesting that clinical trials should recruit patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Valproic acid, sold in the UK as Convulex, is an anticonvulsant widely prescribed for epilepsy. It is also used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The research is reported today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
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