• Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's (Photo : Getty Images)

Mefenamic acid, a widely available drug used to treat mild to moderate pain, menstrual pain and migraines, was shown to have reversed memory problems similar to Alzheimer's disease in mice, said a new study.

The reversal of memory problems in mice suggests mefenamic acid could do the same for humans, said researchers. The study also shows inflammation worsens Alzheimer's disease and that treating inflammation may lessen its effects.

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Mefenamic acid, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), prevents the formation of prostaglandins, which are lipid compounds involved in inflammation.

Previous studies have shown brain inflammation contributes to the intensification of Alzheimer's disease, which researchers say makes it an obvious target for treatment.

Researchers at the University of Manchester, however, said trials in humans are necessary to verify the beneficial effect of mefenamic acid.

Ponstel, the brand used in the study, is a prescription NSAID used to control mild-to-severe pain, specifically pain and blood loss during menstruation. The drug targets an inflammatory pathway called NLRP3 inflammasome, which can damage brain cells -- which is why the researchers tested it in mice with Alzheimer's-like symptoms.

"Until now, no drug has been available to target this pathway, so we are very excited by this result," said Dr. David Brough, a researcher at the University of Manchester.

"However, much more work needs to be done until we can say with certainty that it will tackle the disease in humans as mouse models don't always faithfully replicate the human disease."

Researchers treated two groups of 10 mice with Alzheimer's disease symptoms, giving one mefenamic acid through a miniature pump implanted under their skin for one month and the other a placebo delivered the same way.

Memory loss in mice treated with the drug had Alzheimer's symptoms reverse, seeing memory return to levels seen in mice without the disease.

While the drug showed potential, and already is used for treatment in humans, researchers say further research will be needed to identify potential side effects in patients taking it for Alzheimer's, as well as establish whether it is effective.