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The Rats of NIMH

Posted by bmagnus On July - 9 - 2010

We’re not talking about children’s literature, but research on mice and rats at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). With the help of these lab animals, scientists think they may finally have real help for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Researchers have found a small chemical called P7C3. It appears to drastically reduce apoptosis — cell death — and increase neurogenesis — the “birth” of brain cells — in the brains of mice. It also boosts the mitochondria of those cells, protecting the cells and helping them to more efficiently use oxygen to produce energy. Further research showed that the same compound improved the memories of older rats.

But best of all is that this compound, unlike many, can cross the blood-brain barrier. That means it can be taken in pill form and does not need to be directly injected into the brain to be useful. Dr Steven McKnight, one of the lead scientists in the study, has hopes not only that a once-a-day pill can be developed, but that it might also help patients with multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and schizophrenia.

Don’t go looking for it at the drug store or your doctor’s office just yet. Obviously research on human subjects has not been done, and there will need to be a lot of data to prove safety and effectiveness before the FDA can even consider making this compound available to the public.

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