Two older drugs could be ‘repurposed’ to fight dementia

“Depression and cancer drugs offer hope for dementia sufferers,” Sky News reports. The headline is prompted by a study looking at the effect of two drugs – one used to treat depression and another being trialed for cancer treatment – on neurodegenerative diseases | NHS Choices


This early stage experimental research has demonstrated a beneficial neurological effect of trazodone and dibenzoylmethane on mice with diseases mimicking neurodegenerative diseases.

It is important to acknowledge that this is animal research and therefore the drugs might not have the same effect when they are trialled on humans.

That being said, trazodone is already an approved drug for depression and sleep problems and has therefore already passed safety tests. If the mechanisms of neurodegeneration in humans and mice are similar, it is possible trazodone could be used in the future in treating Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

These early tests are promising. However, these drugs need to be proven effective and safe in people with neurodegenerative diseases before becoming available.

Even if these are proven safe and effective, it is often a lengthy process from the start of human clinical trials to drugs being marketed and available to healthcare providers. This is especially true for long-term conditions where progression may be slow. Therefore, it could well be several years before these drugs are available for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Read the full analysis here

The original research abstract is available here

Technology-based tools and services for people with dementia and carers

Klara Lorenz et al. Technology-based tools and services for people with dementia and carers: Mapping technology onto the dementia care pathway. Published in Dementia, February 2017


This paper provides an overview of the role of technology in dementia care, treatment and support by mapping existing technologies – by function, target user and disease progression.

Technologies identified are classified into seven functions: memory support, treatment, safety and security, training, care delivery, social interaction and other. Different groups of potential users are distinguished: people with mild cognitive impairment and early stages of dementia, people with moderate to severe dementia and unpaid carers and health- and social care professionals. We also identified the care settings, in which the technologies are used (or for which the technologies are developed): at home in the community and in institutional care settings.

The evidence has been drawn from a rapid review of the literature, expert interviews and web and social media searches. The largest number of technologies identified aim to enhance the safety and security of people with dementia living in the community. These devices are often passive monitors, such as smoke detectors. Other safety interventions, such as panic buttons, require active intervention.

The second largest number of interventions aims to enhance people’s memory and includes global positioning systems devices and voice prompts. These technologies mostly target people in the early stages of dementia. A third group focusing on treatment and care delivery emerged from the literature. These interventions focus on technology-aided reminiscence or therapeutic aspects of care for people with dementia and their carers.

While the review found a range of technologies available for people with dementia and carers there is very little evidence of widespread practical application. Instead, it appears that stakeholders frequently rely on everyday technologies re-purposed to meet their needs.

Molecule clears Alzheimer’s plaques in mice

BBC Health News


Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments can lessen the symptoms, but scientists are looking for ways to prevent, halt or reverse the disease.

As the dementia progresses, more plaques (clumps of abnormal proteins and chemicals) form in the brain and healthy brain cells die off.

Scientists reason that preventing or removing the plaques might help, and many drug candidates are in development.

A molecule can clear Alzheimer’s plaques from the brains of mice and improve learning and memory, Korean scientists have found in early tests. But exactly how it gets rid of the abnormal build-up is not understood.

The small Nature Communications study hints at a way to tackle the disease even once its in full swing, dementia experts say. But there is no proof the same method would work in people – many more years of animal trials are needed first.



This project analysed breakthroughs in the treatment of four selected conditions of ill health and seeks to identify potentially transferable lessons for the dementia context. Using evidence review and key informant interviews the authors sought to identify the series of ‘events’ that eventually led to a given breakthrough, and the key milestones in the process that have helped improve understanding and potential for treatment.

Reference: Taylor, J. et al. Treatment for dementia: Learning from breakthroughs for other conditions. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015.

Novel DNA repair mechanism could lead to new Alzheimer’s treatments – Medical News Today

Researchers have discovered a new mechanism with which DNA is repaired that could lead to further developments in the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

dnaResearchers have discoveredthat a special enzyme – the RNA polymerase II (Pol II) enzyme – can sense these SSBs by “riding” along the DNA coil. Acting almost like a proofreader of a text, when the Pol II enzyme encounters an SSB, it triggers a number of reactions that lead to repair enzymes fixing the damaged area.

“RNA polymerase can ‘crawl’ along the DNA loops nearly as well as on histone-free DNA regions, but when it stops near locations of the DNA breaks, it ‘panics,’ triggering the cascade of reactions to start DNA ‘repairs,'” Prof. Studitsky explains.

For the study, the researchers inserted SSBs into a model DNA system to observe how they would affect the progress of Pol II progressing along the coils. They discovered that this enzyme only stopped upon encountering breaks in the DNA connected to the histones and not in histone-free DNA.

“These observations raise the possibility that nucleosomal structure could affect the process of detection and repair of DNA damages,” the authors write.

Prior to the study, the researchers had thought that DNA repair was only possible in histone-free DNA, as reparation with the previously identified mechanism would require complete unwinding of the DNA coils to make the SSBs accessible.

via Novel DNA repair mechanism could lead to new Alzheimer’s treatments – Medical News Today.