According to research by the Washington University School of Medicine, published in Science Translational Medicine, a common antidepressant can reduce the production of brain plaques.
Brain plaques correlate closely with memory problems and other cognitive impairments caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Stopping plaque buildup is believed to help halt the mental decline of Alzheimer’s patients. Scientists found the antidepressant citalopram stopped the growth of plaques in a rodent model of the disease. The research also found, in young adult humans who were cognitively healthy, that a single dose of the antidepressant lowered production of amyloid beta by thirty-seven percent. The researchers stress that while the results may be promising, any treatment at this point is premature.
Levels of amyloid beta, a protein produced by normal brain activity, rise in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s, and eventually clump together to form plaques. Most antidepressants keep serotonin circulating in the brain, and this study was born from the theory that serotonin helps reduce plaque levels in cognitively health individuals.
For this research, scientists gave citalopram to older rodents with brain plaques. They used two-photon imaging to track the growth of plaques in the rodents for twenty-eight days. The results showed a rate of formation of new plaques decreased by seventy-eight percent. In a second experiment, the scientists gave citalopram to twenty-three people cognitively healthy people aged eighteen to fifty. Spinal fluid from the participants over the next day showed a thirty-seven percent drop in amyloid beta production.
- Sheline YI, West T, Yarasheski K, Swarm R, Jasielec MS, Fisher JR, Ficker WD, Yan P, Xiong C, Frederiksen C, Grzelak MV, Chott R, Bateman RJ, Morris JC, Mintun MA, Lee J-M, Cirrito JR. An antidepressant decreases CSF Ab production in healthy individuals and in transgenic AD mice. Science Translational Medicine, online May 14, 2014.
- Washington University in St. Louis. (2014, May 14). Antidepressant may slow Alzheimer’s disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140514142326.htm
By: Emma Henson
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