HIV Drug Holds Promise to Restore Memory Links

As the proportion of older adults in the population steadily grows with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the incidence of cognitive problems, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are also expected to soar.  While many drug trials to treat or prevent AD have ended in failure, a new drug to treat HIV – Maraviroc, has been found to restore memory in a new study using mice.  

According to a recent NPR Health News report, research published in the journal Nature demonstrates that the drug works on a brain system in mice that is also present in the human brain, playing a role in brain and nervous system problems.  Researchers are encouraged about the possibility of helping to treat Alzheimer’s, as well as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries. 

As we age, the ability to link memories that occurred around the same time diminishes and in people with dementia, may be more severely impaired.  While relational memory may decline in older age or with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, patients are still able to form new memories and learn new information but may not be able to trace how or when they acquired the new memories. 

When researchers infused the drug Maraviroc directly into the hippocampus region (associated with linking memories) of the middle-aged mice’s brains, they were able to retrieve memories from a week prior.  The control group could only link memories from a few hours beforehand. 

The results of the study hold promise for aging adults, and also for people recovering from a stroke.  When researchers tested the theory on mice who had suffered a stroke, they recovered faster than mice not treated with the drug.  More study, on humans, is underway and is hoped to offer cognitive and memory benefits for seniors and people with other cognitive or nervous system problems.