Arthritis drug may be effective against Alzheimer’s disease

Arthritis drug may be effective against Alzheimer’s disease

Old drug may offer help to dementia and Alzheimer's sufferers.

An anti-inflammatory drug may be useful in treating patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, says a new study.

Scientists from the Gladstone Institutes have found that a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, reversed the tau-related dysfunction of an animal model of a frontotemporal dementia (FTD), according to a report on

One of the telling signs of dementia is the formation of what scientists call tau-tangles, knots of twisted protein within nerve cells.  Salsalate inhibits tau acetylation, which is a chemical process that can change the function and properties of a protein.  Acetylated tau is a very toxic form of the protein, according to the scientists.

Treatment of a mouse model with salsalate lowered the tau levels, recovered impairments to memory and protected against atrophy of the hippocampus, the region of the brain that is impacted by dementia.

Tau has been researched in relation to dementia for some time, but currently no drugs that would target tau are available to patients.  The process in which protein builds up in the brain and causes toxicity is still unclear.

Li Gan, PhD, an associate investigator at the Gladstone Institutes and co-senior author of the study said, “We identified for the first time a pharmacological approach that reverses all aspects of tau toxicity.  Remarkably, the profound protective effects of salsalate were achieved even though it was administered after disease onset, indicating that it may be an effective treatment option.”

Co-senior author Eric Verdin, MD, a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes added, “Targeting tau acetylation could be a new therapeutic strategy against human tauopathies, like Alzheimer’s disease and FTD.  Given that salsalate is a prescription drug with a long-history of a reasonable safety profile, we believe it can have immediate clinical implications.”

A clinical trial using salsalate to reduce tau levels in progressive supranuclear palsy, another tau-related condition, is already underway.

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