Drug for common liver condition may be an effective treatment for dementia

September 14, 2020

A drug used to treat cirrhosis of the liver may be an effective treatment for a form of Dementia and motorneuron disease, scientists have discovered.

The research, led by the University of York in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, used brain cells from fruit flies and rats to model the neurodegeneration process which occurs in patients with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).

The researchers identified new proteins involved in protecting neurons and discovered that Ursodeoxycholic Acid - an already approved drug, with very low toxicity - increases these proteins and protects neurons from death.

The authors of the study will now embark on further research to discover exactly how the drug works to protect neurons and whether more targeted drugs to treat FTD and a range of other neurodegenerative conditions could be developed.

FTD impacts the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Unlike other forms of dementia which primarily affect people over 65, FTD tends to start at a younger age with most cases diagnosed in people aged 45-65.

Senior author of the study, Dr Sean Sweeney, from the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: "We are on the cusp of being able to 'repurpose' a drug used for a liver complaint, that has very little toxicity in humans".

"The mechanism of action for this drug is currently unknown and the work we will now do to increase our understanding of how it works may help us lengthen and improve the lives of patients with FTD and potentially other neurodegenerative conditions too."

Up to 50% of cases of FTD have a genetic history of the disease in the family and previous research has identified nine genes that may have a role in its development.

Lead authors of the study, Dr. Ryan West and Dr. Chris Ugbode, used one of these genes to develop their unique genetic models of the disease in fruit flies and rat neurons. In these models, they found Ursodeoxycholic Acid keeps neurons in better health, but the drug is not a potential cure for the disease.

Dr West from the University of Sheffield, said: "In our lab models the drug was effective for treating Frontotemporal Dementia and motorneuron disease, but it does not rectify the underlying deficits, suggesting that the drug is neuroprotective but not a cure."

Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer's Society added: "Currently, there's no way to slow down or cure frontotemporal dementia, one of the most common forms of dementia in people under 65, so we're excited to see an existing drug stopping brain cells from dying. While this is in the early stages, it's a valuable first step on the road to finding a way to improve the lives of people with FTD and help them live longer. We need help to continue funding studies like this, so we're asking the Government to honour their commitment to double dementia research funds - while finding new drugs from scratch costs billions and takes decades, we must make every penny count by grasping opportunities to repurpose drugs already approved for other conditions."
-end-
Neuroprotective Activity of Ursodeoxycholic Acid in CHMP2BIntron5 Models of Frontotemporal Dementia is published in Neurobiology of Disease.

The research was carried out in conjunction with the University of Sheffield and the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience and was funded by Alzheimer's Society, Alzheimer's research UK, Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Wellcome Trust.

University of York

Related Dementia Articles from Brightsurf:

The danger of Z-drugs for dementia patients
Strong sleeping pills known as 'Z-drugs' are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia, according to new research.

The long road to dementia
Alzheimer's disease develops over decades. It begins with a fatal chain reaction in which masses of misfolded beta-amyloid proteins are produced that in the end literally flood the brain.

Why people with dementia go missing
People with dementia are more likely to go missing in areas where road networks are dense, complicated and disordered - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

PTSD may double risk of dementia
People who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life, according to a new study by UCL researchers, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dementia education
School-based dementia education could deliver much needed empathy and understanding for older generations as new research from the University of South Australia shows it can significantly improve dementia knowledge and awareness among younger generations.

Building dementia friendly churches
A project to help church communities become more 'dementia friendly' has had a significant impact across the country.

A "feeling" for dementia?
A research team led by the DZNE concludes that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

New biomarker for dementia diagnosis
Medical researchers in the UK and Australia have identified a new marker which could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

Digital solutions for dementia care
Telehealth delivery of dementia care in the home can be as effective as face-to-face home visit services if carers and recipients take advantage of the technologies available, Australian researchers say.

Despite a marked reduction in the prevalence of dementia, the number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050 according to new Alzheimer Europe report
Today, at a European Parliament lunch debate, Alzheimer Europe launched a new report presenting the findings of its collaborative analysis of recent prevalence studies and setting out updated prevalence rates for dementia in Europe.

Read More: Dementia News and Dementia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.