November 8, 2010

Arthritis Meds May Treat Memory Loss

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Remember that groggy, barely conscious feeling you had following a surgical procedure?  Chances are you don't remember much of the experience, and that's because of a condition called "post-operative cognitive decline." Anywhere from 28 to 92 percent of hospitalized patients suffer from short-term memory loss and general delirium.  Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of California, San Francisco have discovered a possible treatment for the condition in anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ones used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

By observing mouse models, the researchers found that the brain's inflammatory response is a likely contributor to the condition.  Cell-to-cell signaling molecules called cytokines are believed to trigger the response, and could be targeted by pre-existing anti-inflammatory drugs to fight cognitive decline.

Previous research discovered that blood levels of an inflammation cytokine called interlueukin-1 beta (IL-1B) were increased during post-operative cognitive decline.  In the latest study, led by Mervyn Maze, MB ChB and Professor and Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care at UCSF, a different cytokine called tumor necrosis factor (TNF-a) was observed.  TNF-a regulates inflammatory response before IL-1B is released, making it a key target in eliminating cognitive decline.

Maze and his colleagues gave test mice one dose of an anti-TNF antibody, performed a simple surgical procedure on them, and observed their post-surgery levels of IL-1B.  The treatment worked, as it limited brain inflammation, decreased levels of IL-1B and prevented all behavioral symptoms of cognitive decline.

"Antibody therapies already are widely used against cytokines to prevent or treat inflammation, so we know that these are effective in humans," Maze was quoted as saying.  "This study suggests that one day we also might be able to use these therapies as a single, pre-surgical dose to prevent cognitive decline in susceptible patients."

Source:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2010