$9-a-pill drug used to treat HIV patients could help reverse memory loss in old age, study finds little optimization at first
- Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles said the drug would be moved to human trials to see if it could boost memory
- The drug works by turning off a gene that makes a protein that HIV uses to infect cells
- The same gene also leads to the deletion of unnecessary memory cells
A $9-pill drug used to treat HIV could also help reverse memory loss in the elderly, according to a new study.
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that maraviroc – sold under the brand name Selzentry – improved memory in middle-aged animals.
It is now being moved to human trials to see if it can boost memory or be an early intervention for people with dementia.
The drug works by turning off a specific gene that makes a cellular protein that is used by HIV to enter them.
But the same gene is also involved in deleting unnecessary memory cells, with studies showing that memory is increased when it is removed.
It is estimated that more than five million Americans suffer from dementia, with limited treatment options available to slow the disease’s symptoms. There is no cure.
A UCLA research team found that Selzentry was able to limit cognitive decline in rats and is poised to begin human trials
What is Maraviroc (Selzentry)?
This drug is prescribed to HIV patients to help control their infection.
It works by turning off a gene that codes for part of a cell that HIV uses to enter it.
This contains the infection by preventing the virus from making more copies of itself.
The drug is taken as two pills a day — priced at $9 each — for as long as needed.
About 90 percent of HIV patients have the burden that the drug can suppress.
Researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature, conducted the first experiments on mice.
They found that when the CCR5 gene was overactive, the rodents forgot the difference between two different cages, they said.
But when it was erased, it was found that the animals had much better memory and connection between brain cells.
This was also observed when administered with the drug.
Professor Alcino Silva, the neurobiologist who led the study, said: “Our next step will be to organize a clinical trial to test the impact of maraviroc on early memory loss with the aim of early intervention.
“Once we fully understand how memory declines, we have the potential to slow the process down.”
He explained that brains rarely store memories alone, but in groups such that remembering one triggers another.
But as we age, the brain gradually loses this ability to link memories together, leading to memory problems.
Maraviroc has been used in the US since 2007 and was approved in 2016 for patients over the age of two.
It’s given as a liquid or tablets, with patients being told to take the drug twice a day while they have the infection.
People infected with the CCR5 tropic type — which accounts for more than 90 percent of HIV cases — can be prescribed the drug.
Dementia is triggered when brain cells accumulate damage, causing them to have trouble communicating with each other.
Sufferers often lose interest in their usual activities, may have difficulty managing behavior and emotions, and may also find social situations difficult.
There are several medications used to treat dementia – but they all focus on slowing the progression of the disease.