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Biological Chemistry

Asthma Drug Improves Learning And Memory

Neuroscience: Compound reverses age-related loss of brain function in rats

by Michael Torrice
November 2, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 43

A drug that prevents airway inflammation and constriction in asthmatics can improve learning and memory in old rats, according to a study (Nat. Commun. 2015, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9466). The findings suggest that the compound, or related ones, could serve as therapies that restore cognitive function in people when it’s lost through aging or neurodegenerative diseases. Ludwig Aigner of Paracelsus Medical University and colleagues decided to study the asthma drug montelukast (Singulair) because previous studies suggested that a signaling protein related to inflammation seen in asthma is also associated with age-related brain inflammation and impaired cognition in rodents. For six weeks, Aigner’s team gave montelukast to four-month-old and 20-month-old rats. Compared with old rats not receiving the drug, aged rodents treated with montelukast performed better in standard tests of learning and memory. The performance of the treated old rats was on par with that of the young ones. In the old rats’ brains, the drug also reduced signatures of inflammation and increased the generation of new neurons in a structure associated with memory. The team is now testing the drug in rodent models of neurodegenerative diseases.


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