Rapamycin is a bacterial byproduct discovered in the soil of Easter Island. It extends the lives of animals, and now two independent studies show that it can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Is this the drug we've been waiting for?
A study published yesterday in the Journal of Biological Chemistry confirmed that mice with Altzheimers showed marked improvement in memory and cognition after being fed a rapamycin-enhanced diet. This study was released simultaneously with another, in PLoS One, which confirmed the results of the first in a different group of mice.
How does this wonder drug work? Physiologist Veronica Galvan, an author on the PLoS study, explained:
Rapamycin treatment lowered levels of amyloid-beta-42, a major toxic species of molecules in Alzheimer's disease. These molecules, which stick to each other, are suspected to play a key role in the early memory failure of Alzheimer's . . . The fact that we are seeing identical results in two vastly different mouse models of Alzheimer's disease provides robust evidence that rapamycin treatment is effective and is acting by changing a basic pathogenic process of Alzheimer's that is common to both mouse models. This suggests that it may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's in humans, who also have very diverse genetic makeup and life histories.
Rapamycin has already been approved by the FDA to treat organ rejection in transplant patients. That means doctors could start prescribing it for the "off label" use of treating Alzheimers tomorrow. The researchers are still not sure if the drug would reverse the effects of Alzheimers, or simply block them. But for millions of people suffering the effects of Alzheimers, that question may be moot.
Expect to be hearing more about this drug, and soon.