An antibiotic that might prevent Alzheimer’s

Structure of Rapamycin

I saw a new report detailing new research using the drug Rapamycin, via the science blog and from an original manuscript in the journal Neuroscience. Rapamycin is a fascinating drug that gets its name from Rapa Nui, which is the aboriginal name for Easter Island. The drug was isolated from the bacterium Streptomyces hydroscopicus, a relatively common soil bacterium which has also been used to produce other antibiotics. The original promise of Rapamycin was as an anti-fungal medication, however it was found to have powerful immunosuppressive properties and currently is used to prevent tissue rejection in organ transplants. The drug has been found to inhibit a highly conserved cellular signaling pathway, and has effects on many different eukaryotic cells ranging from yeast to humans.

Currently, rapamycin is also being examined for its efficacy in a number of other medical conditions, including several forms of cancer, as a way to extend lifespan, as well as a potential anti-HIV therapy. The study linked to above has examined the use of rapamycin in Alzheimer’s Disease, an irreversible neurodegenerative condition associated with aging in the brain. The authors used a mouse model that mimics the human disease, and fed mice of various ages a chow either containing rapamycin or control chow without the drug. Following a 10 week feeding regimen, mice were tested on a behavioral maze and examined for age-related loss in the ability to perform in the maze.

Young mice fed rapamycin showed enhanced cognitive function in comparison to control mice, and older mice fed the drug showed a decrease in cognitive decline normally associated with aging. Additionally, all age groups of mice on the drug decreased anxiety and depressive behavior in comparison to the control mice. The authors conclude that chronic doses rapamycin is having multiple effects on the long term function of the brains of mice. It is unknown whether these effects would translate into benefits in humans, however due to the existing broad off-label approval of rapamycin for a variety of human diseases, it may be relatively easy to extend the experiments in mice into human trials.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on July 11, 2012, in Microbes in the News, Strange but True and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on An antibiotic that might prevent Alzheimer’s.

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