This article is from the WSSF 2016 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Ten-month-old rats given the drug riluzole (a treatment for ALS) for 17 weeks had better memory than non-treated ones. These rats were equivalent to middle age when cognitive decline typically begins. Researchers at the Rockefeller University and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found they could stop normal, age-related memory loss (lost and altered connections between neurons in the brain) in rats by treating them with riluzole. The treatment prompted changes known to improve the neuron connections in the brain’s memory area, the hippocampus. These neurons communicate using glutamate but too much can spill out and cause damage to the neurons at the points where they connect—the synapses. Riluzole helps control glutamate release and uptake, which prevents spillover. The rats also had more clustering of the synapses which enhanced their memory. This clustering is the core underlying mechanism that prevents age-related cognitive decline. Riluzole is being used as a possible treatment for patients with mild Alzheimer’s.
New research suggests an existing drug, riluzole, may prevent foggy ‘old age’ brain. Study
Glutamatergic regulation prevents hippocampal-dependent
age-related cognitive decline through dendritic spine clustering PNAS, December 30, 2014, vol. 111 no. 52 18733–18738, and
experimental Alzheimer’s drug reverses genetic changes thought to spur the disease from study published in Molecular
Psychiatry, online March 29, 2016,
Age and Alzheimer’s disease gene
expression profiles reversed by the glutamate modulator riluzole.