$9-a-tablet drug used to treat HIV patients could help reverse memory loss

Nine dollar per tablet drug used to treat HIV patients could help reverse memory loss in older age, study finds little tweak to start

  • Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the drug would be moved to human trials to investigate whether it could strengthen recall
  • The drug works by turning off a gene that makes a protein HIV uses to infect cells
  • This same gene also leads to the deletion of needless memory cells

A $9-a-tablet drug used to treat HIV could also help to reverse memory loss in older people, a new study finds.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that Maraviroc — sold under the brand name Selzentry — improved memory in middle aged animals.

It will now be moved to human trials to investigate if it can strengthen memory or be an early intervention for dementia patients.

The drug works by turning off a specific gene that makes a cell protein used by HIV to invade them.

But this same gene is also involved in deleting needless memory cells, with studies showing that when it is removed memory is boosted.

More than five million Americans suffer from dementia, estimates suggest, with limited treatments available to slow the diseases symptoms. There is no cure.

A UCLA research team found that Selzentry was able to limit cognitive decline in rats, and are prepared to begin human trials

What is maraviroc (Selzentry)? 

This drug is prescribed to HIV patients to curb their infection.

It works by turning off a gene that encodes for part of a cell that HIV uses to invade it. 

This curbs the infection by stopping the virus making more copies of itself.

The drug is taken as two tablets a day — priced at $9 each — for as long as is required.

About 90 percent of HIV patients have the strain that the drug can suppress.

Researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature, performed the initial trials on mice.

They found that when the gene CCR5 was over-active the rodents forgot the difference between two different cages, they said.

But when it was deleted the animals were found to have much better recall and connection between brain cells. 

This was also observed when they were administered with the drug.

Professor Alcino Silva, the neurobiologist who led the study, said: ‘Our next step will be to organize a clinical trial to test maraviroc’s influence on early memory loss with the goal of early intervention.

‘Once we fully understand how memory declines, we possess the potential to slow down the process.’

He explained that brains rarely store memories on their own and instead in groups so that remembering one triggers others.

But as they age brains gradually lose this ability to link memories together, leading to problems with recall.

Maraviroc has been in use across the U.S. since 2007, and in 2016 was also approved for patients more than two years old.

It is administered as a liquid or tablets, with patients told to take the drug twice a day for as long as they have the infection.

People infected with the CCR5-tropic type — which accounts for more than 90 percent of HIV cases — can be prescribed the drug.

Dementia is triggered when damage builds up in brains cells, leaving them struggling to communicate with each other.

Sufferers often lose interest in their usual activities, can have trouble managing behavior and emotions and may also find social situations difficult.

There are several medicines available to treat dementia — but these all focus on slowing the progression of the disease.

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