Existing evidence suggests that patients with Alzheimer's disease who have taken Huperzine A have improved general cognitive function, global clinical status, functional performance and reduced behavioural disturbance compared to patients taking placebos.
The research team came to this conclusion after studying data in six trials that involve a total of 454 patients.
Part of the damage involved in Alzheimer's disease is a loss of acetylcholine-containing neurons in the basal forebrain. This suggests that drugs that could inhibit cholinesterase, which breaks down acetylcholine, could increase the ability of remaining cholinergic neurons.
Scientists know that Huperzine A can block acetyl cholinesterase and that it can work both in the peripheral and central nervous systems. This makes it a promising agent for treating various forms of dementia including Alzheimer's disease.
"These findings are based on small number of trials, but the data indicate that it would be well worth setting up some more high quality assessments of this interesting drug," says Associate Professor Hongmei Wu, who led this research and works in the Department of Geriatrics at the West China Hospital of Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan, China.