Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Protecting the Brain Over the Lifespan

If humans are to extend their lifespan by 50% and more, they will need to learn to prevent accumulation of damage to the aging brain. One approach is through long-term pharmacological intervention.

Scientific work continues on the use of Ampakine drugs to treat Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders. Now it looks as if Ampakines can also serve as a prophylactic drug.
The drug, temporarily designated S18986, interacts with AMPA (short for α- Amino-3-hydroxy-5- methylisoxazole-4- propionic acid, or ampakine) receptors in the brain. These receptors transmit excitatory signals in the brain, and researchers were interested in experimental AMPA-receptor drugs (such as S18986) for their neuroprotective abilities and for the way they temporarily boost memory. But rather than investigating the compound’s short-term effects, Alfred E. Mirsky Professor Bruce McEwen and his lab members...studied the drug’s impacts on middle-aged to elderly rats and found that, when administered daily over four consecutive months, it appeared to improve memory and slow brain aging.

...When compared to control animals that had received only sugar water, the drugged rats were not only more active and better at memory tests, but their brains showed physical signs of slowed aging. Neurons in the forebrain that produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter known to play a role in learning and memory, had 37 percent less decline. Dopamine-producing neurons, which are responsible for sustaining activity and motivation levels, slowed their decline by 43 percent. Levels of inflammation in the brain were also significantly lower. “Every marker we chose to look at seemed to indicate there was some preservation of function during aging with chronic treatment,” Hunter says. The drug appears to slow aging’s effects throughout the entire brain.___ScienceDaily__via__FutureScanner

This particular Ampakine appears to have a protective effect on the brains of rats over a significant part of the rat's lifespan.

Ampakines are being researched as potential treatments for Alzheimer's, Depression, and other neuropathological and neuropsychiatric conditions. This research suggests an even broader potential application of Ampakines--as a neuroprotective for those at risk for neuropathology. Broadly speaking, that would be most of us, over our lifespans.

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