August 9, 2012

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Egrifta, Levetiracetam, Ginseng-Fortified Milk, and Fish Oils

Since information about new studies – most of them encouraging -- keeps flooding in like a daily, unrelenting hurricane storm surge, we’ve GOT to be making progress in the good fight against cognitive decline, right? Here are four more recent tidbits in the ongoing saga.

1) HIV Drug May Support Memory in Early Alzheimer’s
Approved by the FDA in 2010 as a successful AIDS therapy, the drug Egrifta promotes production of a human growth hormone, which then activates the creation of various other hormones, including insulin.

While we know insulin’s role in regulating blood sugar, it also functions to create new nerve cells in the brain and protects existing brain cells from damage. The hormone’s potential role in treating Alzheimer’s isn’t new, but Egrifta gives it a novel application in the battle against cognitive decline in people with early Alzheimer’s.

For more info about Egrifta, see the update that appeared on the WebMD site on August 6.

2) Epilepsy Drug Reverses Memory Loss?
If an AIDS drug can slow memory deterioration in people with early Alzheimer’s, we shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that an epilepsy drug seems to reverse memory loss in Alzheimer’s-induced mice.

Scientists have reported on apparent links between epilepsy and Alzheimer’s for years, suggesting that the neural chaos of Alzheimer’s can spiral into epileptic seizures. Why shouldn’t therapy for the latter perhaps ease the former?

The epilepsy drug is levetiracetam, and its administration to rodent subjects improved the operation of compromised neural networks. Several months ago, scientists at Johns Hopkins University found that the drug had similar beneficial effects on a small test group of human subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Larger study samples – as always – are needed.

Want more information about levetiracetam’s promise in this new area? Check the August 6 article from Science Daily.

3) Better Memory with Ginseng-Fortified Milk?
Looking for something a bit more organic than epilepsy drugs for MCI? Researchers in Spain have created a low-lactose milk infused with American ginseng. The product, they say, is tasty to older drinkers, combats aging, and provides positive neuro-cognitive effects.

Initial reports seem less than scientific, and – caveat emptor – the findings are published in the August edition of the Journal of Dairy Science.

Much of the story focuses on the developers’ efforts to make the product more palatable, since ginseng – long believed to have beneficial health properties -- is notoriously bitter. Still, if you’d like to learn more, you can find details in the July 25 edition of the e-journal Medical News.

4)  Don’t Look to Fish Oils for Dementia Prevention.
There’s lots of recent literature about the positive effects from eating oily fish – like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring -- because they’re rich in the omega-3 fatty acids thought so crucial for brain development.

While those acids may indeed have other positive health benefits, three large, different randomized controlled trials showed that new dementia cases were just as likely to develop among daily fish-oil eaters as in those eating olive or sunflower oil placebos.

Study participants eating the rich omega-3 fish oils every day scored no higher than their control group counterparts in cognitive function tests measuring word learning and verbal fluency.

These findings, published earlier this summer in the Cochrane Summaries, included this familiar suggestion: “Longer studies are required, during which greater changes in cognitive function may occur, to enable researchers to identify possible benefits of omega-3 PUFA in preventing cognitive decline.”


In the coming days, I hope and expect we'll see new reports in the quest for treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's. On we go.

1 comment:

LUSTN4U said...

what's wrong with deprenyl? 20 or 30 years ago, deprenyl was recieving a great deal of attention as the parkinsons, alzhiemers/dementia, anti-aging wonder drug. i had an elderly neighbor that said it was a miracle drug. u hear nothing about it anymore,yet i cant seem to find any negative studies on it at all? so, what gives? have u ever tried it?