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Antidepressant May Slow Alzheimer’s Disease

By  Shelley Emling 

With the number of people living with dementia expected to double to 65.7 million by 2030, any breakthrough in the Alzheimer’s arena is a welcome one — especially if it leads to a method for slowing the disease.

One such breakthrough happened recently, when researchers announced that a commonly prescribed antidepressant may be able to reduce production of the main ingredient in Alzheimer’s brain plaques.

Brain plaques are closely connected to memory problems and other cognitive difficulties caused by Alzheimer’s. If researchers can stop the plaque buildup, they may be able to stop the horrific mental decline caused by the disease.

Scientists found that the antidepressant citalopram stopped the growth of plaques in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. What was even better is that a single dose of the antidepressant lowered production of amyloid beta — the primary ingredient in plaques — by 37 percent in young healthy adults.

Even so, researchers urged caution.

“Antidepressants appear to be significantly reducing amyloid beta production, and that’s exciting,” said senior author Dr. John Cirrito, assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine, in a written release. “But while antidepressants generally are well tolerated, they have risks and side effects. Until we can more definitively prove that these drugs help slow or stop Alzheimer’s in humans, the risks aren’t worth it. There is still much more work to do.”

Amyloid beta is a protein produced by normal brain activity. When a person has Alzheimer’s, levels of this protein go up in the brain, causing pieces of it to clump together to form plaques.

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