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Antidepressant restores protein levels in brain, improves memory

December 30, 2015
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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The antidepressant Rolipram has been found to improved cognition in mice. Neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found the drug also decreased levels of toxic proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The findings were published online in Nature Medicine.

"We have shown for the first time that it's possible to use a drug to activate this disposal system in neurons and effectively slow down disease," says study leader Karen E. Duff, PhD, professor of pathology and cell biology at CUMC and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, in a university-issued news release. "This has the potential to open up new avenues of treatment for Alzheimer’s and many other neurodegenerative diseases."

Brain cells must continually clear out old, worn, or damaged proteins.  Accumulation of the tau protein slows down protein disposal necessary for healthy brain function. Rolipram restored protein disposal to normal levels and improved the memory of diseased mice to levels seen in healthy mice.

Researchers are now investigating preexisting drugs in the same class as that could have similar benefits without the side effect of nausea –and could quickly move to clinical trial because of their pre-existing FDA approval.

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