ALS Drug, Riluzole, Being Tested in Alzheimer’s Patients May Work by Protecting Neurons

ALS Drug, Riluzole, Being Tested in Alzheimer’s Patients May Work by Protecting Neurons
Riluzole, a drug approved for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), might reverse genetic changes often observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. The findings support a clinical trial now exploring if riluzole is beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers at Rockefeller University have previously shown that riluzole can prevent memory loss in aging rats by inducing structural brain changes. Now, the team led by Ana Pereira, an instructor in clinical medicine in Bruce McEwen's laboratory at Rockefeller, further explored how the drug might affect the neurotransmitter glutamate in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory processing. "In aging and Alzheimer's, the chemical signal glutamate can accumulate between neurons, damaging the circuitry," Dr. Pereira said in a press release. "When we treated rats with riluzole, we saw a suite of changes. Perhaps most significantly, expression of molecules responsible for clearing excess glutamate returned to more youthful levels." The team studied the gene expression signatures of aging rats and, in an article in the journal Molecular Psychiatrynoted that when treating the animals with riluzole, the levels of numerous genes started to resemble patterns in younger rats. Riluzole has been shown to increase the activity of  EAAT2, a transport protein that removes excess glutamate from outside neurons. In rats, the gene expression of the transporter becomes lower with age and has been linked to Alzhe
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