Brown University Researchers Find Drug to Ease Aging Disorders
G. Wayne Miller
PROVIDENCE, February 6, 2019 (www.newportri.com) – Research led by two Brown University scientists and published Wednesday afternoon in the journal Nature suggests that a drug now used to treat HIV/AIDS reduces age-related inflammation in mice — and could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders associated with senescence, the technical term for aging.
Brown’s Marco De Cecco and John M. Sedivy, one of the nation’s preeminent aging scientists, collaborated on the research with others at Brown and at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester, NYU Langone Health in New York City, Université de Montréal, the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
“This holds promise for treating age-associated disorders, including Alzheimer’s,” said Sedivy, a Brown professor of medical science and biology. “And not just Alzheimer’s but many other diseases: Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, macular degeneration, arthritis, all of these different things. That’s our goal.”
Of the many factors associated with age-related disorders, inflammation ranks high as a culprit, and Brown is not alone in studying the relationship with an eye toward prevention and cure. Scientists led by Paula Grammas at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, for example, have drawn the connection and recently announced a new study that could prove a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment.
The Brown-led research focused on so-called “retrotransposon activity,” harmful DNA sequences in cells that the young body keeps in check — but that “escape” when the organism is older, causing harm in the form of inflammation. The HIV drug that was studied, lamivudine, sold under the brand name Epivir, halts retrotransposon activity, the researchers found.
“When we started giving this HIV drug to mice, we noticed they had these amazing anti-inflammatory effects,” Sedivy said.
According to Brown, treating 26-month-old mice — roughly equivalent to a 75-year-old person — “for as little as two weeks” reduced inflammation. “Treating 20-month-old mice with lamivudine for six months also reduced signs of fat and muscle loss as well as kidney scarring,” the university said in a media release.
While that is encouraging, Sedivy said, work remains in moving toward treatment of humans.
According to Brown, Sedivy “would like to begin clinical trials of lamivudine for various age-associated conditions, such as frailty, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.” The drug was approved in 1995 by the Food and Drug Administration “and its pharmacological activity and safety are well established,” according to the scientist.