A popular epilepsy drug may also be beneficial in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), according to a new study to be published on October 27 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. The anti-seizure drug valproic acid improved memory and reduced brain lesions in mice with an AD-like disease.
The study, lead by Weihong Song at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, showed that treating mice with valproic acid soon after the onset of disease shrank the brain plaques typical of AD and even prompted damaged nerves to start repairing themselves. Most importantly, the drug improved the animals' performance in a variety of memory-related tests.
The acid worked by blocking a cascade of enzymatic reactions that culminates in the accumulation of a protein called beta-amyloid, which builds up to toxic levels in AD. Valproic acid helped mice less as their disease progressed, suggesting that future clinical trials should focus on people with early signs of AD. Valproic acid has been given to people with AD in the past but memory improvement was never assessed in those studies.