Nine-dollar-a-pill drug used to treat HIV patients could help reverse memory loss in older adults, study finds little tweak to start
- Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles said the drug would be moved to human trials to determine if it could boost the recall.
- The drug works by turning off a gene that makes a protein that HIV uses to infect cells
- This same gene also leads to the suppression of unnecessary memory cells
A $9-a-pill drug used to treat HIV may also help reverse memory loss in older people, a new study has found.
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that Maraviroc, sold under the brand name Selzentry, improved memory in middle-aged animals.
It will now be moved to human trials to determine if it can boost memory or be an early intervention for dementia the patients.
The drug works by turning off a specific gene that makes a cell protein used by HIV to invade them.
But this same gene is also implicated in suppressing unnecessary memory cells, with studies showing that when it is suppressed, memory is boosted.
More than five million Americans are estimated to have dementia, with limited treatments available to slow the symptoms of the disease. There is no remedy.
A UCLA research team found that Selzentry was able to limit cognitive decline in rats and is ready to begin human trials
What is Maraviroc (Selzentry)?
This drug is prescribed to HIV-positive patients to curb their infection.
It works by turning off a gene that codes for a part of a cell that HIV uses to invade.
This slows down the infection by preventing the virus from making more copies of itself.
The drug is taken as two pills a day — priced at $9 each — for as long as needed.
About 90 percent of HIV patients have the strain that the drug can suppress.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature, carried out the first tests on mice.
They found that when the CCR5 gene was overactive, rodents forgot the difference between two different cages, they said.
But when it was removed, the animals were found to have much better recall and connection between brain cells.
This was also seen when they were given with the drug.
Professor Alcino Silva, the neurobiologist who led the study, said: ‘Our next step will be to organize a clinical trial to test the influence of maraviroc on early memory loss with the aim of early intervention.
“Once we fully understand how memory declines, we have the potential to slow the process down.”
He explained that brains rarely store memories alone and rather in groups, so remembering one triggers others.
But as they age, brains gradually lose this ability to link memories, leading to problems with recall.
Maraviroc has been used in the United States since 2007, and in 2016 it was also approved for patients over the age of two.
It is given in liquid or tablet form, with patients advised to take the drug twice a day as long as they have the infection.
People infected with the CCR5-tropic type – which accounts for more than 90% of HIV cases – may be prescribed the drug.
Dementia is triggered when damage builds up in brain cells, leaving them struggling to communicate with each other.
Affected individuals often lose interest in their usual activities, may have trouble managing their behavior and emotions, and may also find social situations difficult.
There are several medications available to treat dementia, but they all aim to slow the progression of the disease.
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