- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2001

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil and Motrin appear to protect against Alzheimer's by thwarting production of a key protein found in the disease's brain-clogging deposits, a study found.
Since 1997, scientists have noted that some people who regularly take large amounts of ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs, for aches and pains run a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.
But the reason for the protection was a mystery until now.
Researchers said the latest findings could one day lead to new treatments that reduce the formation of brain deposits, or plaques, without toxic side effects.
"If the findings can be extended to people, these drugs could join the Ivy League of potential treatments" for Alzheimer's, said molecular biologist Bart De Strooper of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.
The findings were published in today's issue of the journal Nature.
Researchers had thought that NSAIDs protected against Alzheimer's by reducing inflammation. Instead, the new study shows that the drugs inhibit production of a certain protein, amyloid-beta 42, that is found in the tangled plaques that clog and kill the brain cells of Alzheimer victims.
The lowered protein level was found both in the test tube and in the brains of mice. The researchers did not report whether the mice showed fewer actual brain plaques, however.
"Our study provides the first explanation as to why nonsteroidals may be working in Alzheimer's disease. That, in itself, is not a big leap, but some of the surprises in the data may be the bigger leap," said Dr. Edward Koo, a neurologist at the University of California at San Diego who led the research.
Dr. Koo and his colleagues worked with cells taken from mice that had been genetically altered to have a disease similar to Alzheimer's. Treating the mice with ibuprofen and two other NSAIDs was found to inhibit the production of the amyloid-beta 42 protein by as much as 80 percent.
Several other pain relievers, including aspirin, showed no such effect.
Dr. Koo said drug companies may look for an Alzheimer's treatment that is like ibuprofen but does not have its anti-inflammatory effect.
"This path is going to take a little time for us to walk down," said Bill Thies, vice president of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer's Association.
Dr. Koo and others warned that doctors should not prescribe high doses of NSAIDs to prevent Alzheimer's. The doses used in the experiments were equal to more than 16 Advils a day far more than what is recommended.
NSAIDs can cause life-threatening kidney damage and severe gastrointestinal ailments in high doses.

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