The findings, described in the June issue of Neuropsychopharmacology, also indicate that the experimental treatment in question a compound known as SGS742 works by blocking certain chemicals that interfere with memory formation.
"The findings in laboratory animals both improved memory in our tests and evidence that the drug targets the biology for making memories in the brain places this drug on solid footing as a candidate therapeutic agent," said the study's lead author, Michela Gallagher.
SGS742, previously shown to improve memory in animals, is an experimental treatment for memory disorders. It is currently in human clinical trials led by California-based Saegis Pharmaceuticals Inc., which holds a worldwide exclusive license granted by the drug's developer.
Gallagher, a Krieger-Eisenhower Professor and the chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the university's Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said these studies did not address SGS742's potential as a cure or preventive treatment for Alzheimer's disease itself. They were intended, rather, to assess its potential as a treatment for the disease's key symptom: memory loss.
"Memory impairment occurs early in the disease and worsens as the disease progresses. However, until the later stages of the disease, memory is impaired but not entirely gone," Gallagher said. "By augmenting the brain's memory-making ability, drugs could be used to treat this symptom and to improve the quality of life for patients who have a disease that has a slow progression over years."