Scientists behind the breakthrough believe the treatment could pave the way for treating dementia and claim the drug is nearly ready for clinical trials on humans Dubbed a “modern elixir of life”, in tests on mice and flies, the J147 drug made aging cells appear more youthful by binding proteins found in mitochondria, the energy-generators within cells.
The experimental drug was first developed in 2011, but it is only now that scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, USA, have worked out exactly what it does.
After studying compounds in plants, the special “elixir” was formulated by modifying a molecule found in Turmeric – a spice used in curry.
And in extensive tests, the researchers found that J147 can reverse memory deficits, encourage the production of new brain cells, and slow or even reverse Alzheimer’s progression in mice.
Professor Dave Schubert, head of Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory and the senior author on the new paper, has speculated that by targeting aging itself, many diseases associated with old-age could be treated.
He explained: “”This really glues together everything we know about J147 in terms of the link between aging and Alzheimer’s.
Currently, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s which causes nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain leading to dementia.
During the course of the disease, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions.
In the UK, around 850,000 people suffer from dementia, costing some £26bn a year.
The figures are also rising rapidly as the population ages.