A pill to make you smarter? New drug grows brain cells
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Researchers have found a drug that can help the brain grow new cells and said their study may lead to ways to improve experimental Alzheimer's drugs.
ShareThe researchers' work, done on rodents, builds on findings that all mammals, including humans, make brain cells throughout their lives. Most of these die, but this drug helps more of the baby cells survive and grow to become functioning brain cells. "We make new neurons every day in our brain," Andrew Pieper of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview. "What our compound does is allow more of them to survive."
The compound is called P7C3 for now, and the researchers have already started tweaking it to make it more effective. They said it seems safe and appears to work even when taken as a pill.
The compound is similar to Medivation Inc and Pfizer Inc's experimental Alzheimer's drug, Dimebon, and may provide ways to improve its effects, Pieper and colleagues reported in the journal Cell.
It is also similar to some compounds owned by Serono, the researchers said.
Dimebon, originally a Russian-made antihistamine also known as latrepirdine, failed in a clinical trial for Alzheimer's disease in March.
"For the sake of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease, it is hoped that the apparently marginal clinical utility of Dimebon might be enhanced by improvements in both its potency and ceiling of proneurogenic, neuroprotective efficacy," the researchers wrote.
"If so, our work offers concrete assays for the development of improved versions of these neuroprotective drugs."
Alzheimer's gradually destroys the brain and affects 26 million people globally. Drugs, such as Pfizer's Aricept, improve symptoms only minimally.