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Posted: November 11, 2008

Anti-Seizure Epilepsy Drug May Help Treat Early Alzheimer's

 A popular epilepsy drug can reverse the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to Canadian scientists who uncovered the drug’s benefit after testing in mice. The drug, valproic acid, is now beginning tests in human Alzheimer’s patients.

 

The testing in mice found that valproic acid stopped further damage from Alzheimer’s disease and actually improved memory by blocking the formation of Alzheimer's-related brain plaques.

Professor Weihong Song, who led the research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said: “We found that if we used valproic in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, in mice, it reduced plaque formation and further prevented brain cell death. The drug also improved performance in memory tests. We are very excited about these results.”

The drug, which is branded Convulex, had less of an effect as the disease progressed, according to the research team’s findings, which are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine

Not only did valproic acid, sometimes known by the acronym VPA, shrink plaques in the brains of mice with a version of Alzheimer's disease, it also prompted damaged nerves to start repairing themselves. The acid worked by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme essential to the production of beta amyloid protein, the researchers found.

 

They said that VPA had less of an effect as the disease progressed, suggesting that clinical trials should recruit patients with early signs of Alzheimer's. The current testing of VPA on humans is expected to start yielding results within the next year.

 

"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 AD (Alzheimer's disease)," Song said.

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