Salsalate, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, effectively prevented the accumulation of the protein tau in an animal model of Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), finds scientists from the Gladstone Institutes in California.
Tau protein accumulates in the brains of people with both Alzheimer’s disease and Frontotemporal dementia. The study, published in Nature Medicine, found that salsalate successfully lowered tau levels in mice and, in doing so, improved memory and prevented damage of the hippocampus – a brain region essential for memory formation that is impacted by dementia.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s promising news that the arthritis drug salsalate could potentially reduce the accumulation of one of the toxic proteins that characterises both Alzheimer’s disease and Frontotemporal dementia. None of the current dementia treatments target this specific protein, tau, which creates tangles in the brain that gradually destroy healthy nerve cells. While scientists are still not absolutely sure what causes Alzheimer’s or Frontotemporal dementia, the hope is that this type of treatment could be one way of slowing down the progression of the disease.
“As this drug is already prescribed to people with arthritis we know a lot about how it works and its side effects – what we need now is confirmation of whether it works for people with dementia. Salsalate is currently in a clinical trial for another brain disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and we look forward to seeing the results as they could be indicative of its potential as a treatment for dementia.