Inexpensive HIV drug could reduce risk of Alzheimer’s, other diseases, study finds

A drug developed to fight HIV may help reduce a person's risk of Alzheimer's, according to researchers.

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Experiments led by Brown University showed lamivudine, an inexpensive anti-HIV drug that’s been used since 1995, may help reduce inflammation caused by aging.

In the study, scientists gave 26-month-old mice (roughly the equivalent to 75-year-old humans) the drug and found it reduced their inflammation. Twenty-month-old mice who received the drug for six months saw less fat, muscle loss and kidney scarring.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, came from a collaborative research project involving researchers at Brown, New York University, the University of Rochester, Université de Montréal, the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

The researchers noted lamivudine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1995 and is a known, safe drug with "hardly any" side effects.

John Sedivy, professor of medical science and biology at Brown, said the findings can be extended to other age-related illnesses, like “Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, macular degeneration, arthritis, all of these different things.”

Sedivy said he wants to begin human trials. “That’s our goal.”

Lamivudine targets inflammation by fighting retrotransposons. Retrotransposons, DNA sequences able to replicate and move to other places, are "responsible for tiny changes in DNA that trigger disease," according to the Daily Mail.

The body can keep these changes in check when young, the researchers say, but not as easily as a person ages. Lamivudine interferes with retrotransposon activity, which stops inflammation from happening in response to aging.

The connection between inflammation and Alzheimer’s has interested scientists for the past few years, Dr. James Ellison said.

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"(Anti-inflammatory drugs) might be helpful as preventive agents but actually hurtful if used later in the course of (Alzheimer's Disease), when their anti-inflammatory effects might interfere with the body's self-protective response," Ellison said.

Ellison also said future areas of investigation focusing on the connection between inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Managing "chronic inflammatory conditions"
  • Studying how the body's immune system interacts with Alzheimer's
  • Figuring out the mix of drugs to reduce the plaques and conditions that cause Alzheimer's

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