New York: A drug known as riluzole can help prevent developing neurodegenerative conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer`s in old age, say researchers.
The team from the Rockefeller University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found they could stop normal, age-related memory loss in rats by treating them with riluzole.
This treatment, they found, prompted changes known to improve connections and communication between certain neurons within the brain`s hippocampus - a brain region implicated in memory and emotion.
"By examining the neurological changes that occurred after riluzole treatment, we discovered one way in which the brain`s ability to reorganise itself can be marshalled to protect it against some of the deterioration that can accompany old age," said co-senior study author Bruce McEwen, head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University.
The researchers began giving riluzole to rats once they reached 10 months old.
After 17 weeks of treatment, they tested the rats` spatial memory and found they performed better than their untreated peers and almost as well as young rats.
"By promoting important neuroplastic changes in the brain such as clustering of spines, riluzole may prevent cognitive decline," said first author Ana Pereira.
Pereira is currently conducting a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of riluzole for patients with mild Alzheimer`s.
The research was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.