An experimental drug has demonstrated an ability to improve memory and slow the effects of aging in rats. Researchers believe the same drug--S18986--can interact with AMPA in human brains, delivering the same therapeutic benefit. The research work has focused on countering the natural effects of aging on the brain. Inflammation increases as the levels of crucial neurotransmitters decline. And a host of serious illnesses, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, can occur as a result.
"Nobody had ever looked at the long-term effects of these ampakines on the aging brain," says Professor Bruce McEwen, head of Rockefeller's Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology. Short-term studies, he notes, had shown that the drug appears to improve aspects of memory, likely by temporarily ramping up AMPA receptors in the hippocampus--the brain's memory and learning center. But McEwen, research assistant Erik Bloss and postdocs Elizabeth Waters and Richard Hunter found that, over the course of four months, S18986 changed the entire profile of the older rodents' brains.
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