A drug currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis may also offer protection against cognitive impairments seen in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), based on research in animal models. The results of this study appear in the journal Nature Medicine.

Li Gan, PhD, and Eric Verdin, MD, both from the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues identified for the first time a pharmacological approach that shows promise in reversing tau toxicity and accumulation in the brain. In a mouse model, salsalate reduced tau levels, rescued memory impairments, and protected against atrophy of the hippocampus by inhibiting the enzyme p300 in the brain that is elevated in Alzheimer’s disease and triggers acetylation.

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“Remarkably, the profound protective effects of salsalate were achieved even though it was administered after disease onset, indicating that it may be an effective treatment option,” stated Dr. Gan. Dr. Verdin added that “given that salsalate is a prescription drug with a long-history of a reasonable safety profile, we believe it can have immediate clinical implications.”

A clinical trial of salsalate for reducing tau levels in progressive supranuclear palsy, which is also a tau-medicated neurological condition, is currently underway.

For more information visit Gladstone.org.