Drug Reverses Age-Related Mental Decline in Mice

Aaron Gould Sheinin

December 08, 2020

An experimental drug reversed age-related declines in memory and mental flexibility in mice, according to a study from the University of California-San Francisco.

The study was peer reviewed and published in the open-access journal eLife. It says the drug, called ISRIB, restored cognitive abilities in older mice and rejuvenated brain and immune cells.

"ISRIB's extremely rapid effects show for the first time that a significant component of age-related cognitive losses may be caused by a kind of reversible physiological "blockage" rather than more permanent degradation," Susanna Rosi, PhD, professor in the departments of Neurological Surgery and Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, said in a statement.


While the results are promising, tests in animals do not always lead to the same results in humans. The drug would have to undergo multiple clinical trials and gain FDA approval before it could be used in people.

Peter Walter, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics, said the study's data indicate that older brains do not permanently lose cognitive abilities but that they are dormant or blocked "by a vicious cycle of cellular stress."

The drug had previously been used to study traumatic brain injury. In a 2017 study, also done in mice, showed ISRIB could reverse TBI-induced learning and memory problems.

In the study, researchers trained older animals to escape a watery maze by finding a hidden platform. The task is typically hard for older animals, but those who received the experimental drug over a 3-day training process were able to complete the task as well as younger mice. The test subjects also performed much better than mice of the same age who did not receive the drug, researchers said.


University of California-San Francisco: "Drug Reverses Age-Related Mental Decline Within Days."

University of California: "Drug reverses memory failure caused by traumatic brain injury."

eLife: "Small molecule cognitive enhancer reverses age-related memory decline in mice."


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