Posted on Feb 02, 2009, 9 a.m.
By gary clark
Findings published in the February issue of Behavioral Neuroscience suggest that Fasudil, a drug used for a decade to treat vascular problems in the brain, may be helpful in treating progressive cognitive impairment and potentially improve learning and memory.
In a study, a team of Arizona psychologists, geneticists and neuroscientists injected middle-aged rats between 17 and 18 months old with hydroxyfasudil, the active form of Fasudil. Using a water radial-arm maze, the scientists tested how well the rats were able to remember which of the radiating arms had a reward. Injections began four days before testing and continued through testing. Those rats given the higher dose of hydroxyfasudil demonstrated their ability to remember more items of information than the lower dose group. However, both groups performed significantly better than the control group injected with saline solution. In addition, the high-dose group had fewer total errors and demonstrated the best working memory. In each of the learning tests, the low-dose group scored between the no-dose and high-dose group, suggesting that the increase in learning and memory performance depended upon the size of the dose.
Fasudil is known to protect the brain by dilating blood vessels when blood flow stops, such as with stroke victims. When Fasudil breaks down into the more potent hydroxyfasudil molecule, the scientists believe that it affects the function of a gene called KIBRA, potentially altering memory. Says Lead Author Matthew Huentelman, PhD, "We have identified a drug that seems to benefit both the cardiovascular system, which it was originally designed to do, and the central nervous system, a new indication. We are actively exploring options for a clinical trial in the areas of cognitive impairment and dementia using the well-tolerated pro-drug Fasudil."
Co-author Heather Bimonte-Nelson, PhD, adds that, "Fasudil shows great promise as a cognitive enhancer during aging. The effects in our aging animal model were robust, showing enhancements in both learning and two measures of memory. The possibility that these findings may translate to benefits to human brain health and function is very exciting."News Release: Vascular drug found to improve learning and memory in middle-aged rats www.eurekalert.org February 2, 2009