Promising treatment for memory loss could be an HIV drug: Shots

Scientists have discovered that a drug used to treat HIV can help restore a special kind of memory in rats. The results are promising for people as well.

Robert F. Bucati / AP


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Robert F. Bucati / AP


Scientists have discovered that a drug used to treat HIV can help restore a special kind of memory in rats. The results are promising for people as well.

Robert F. Bucati / AP

An HIV drug – known as maravirok – may be another, unexpected, use.

The drug appears to restore a memory that allows us to link to an event, such as a wedding, with those we’ve seen there, a team reported in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

Maravirok’s ability to improve this type of memory was demonstrated in rats, but the drug works on a brain system that is also found in humans and plays a role in a range of brain and nervous system problems.

“You could also be affected by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries,” he said. S. Thomas Carmichael, chair of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. .

Maravirok from rat

The ability to connect memories that occur at the same time is called relational memory. It usually decreases with age and can lead to severe disability in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alcino Silva, author of the new study and director of UCLA’s Integrative Center for Learning and Memory, says relational memory problems can occur in people who have difficulty forming new memories.

“You learn about something, but you can’t remember where you heard it. You can’t remember who told you about it,” Silva said. “These things happen more and more as we go from middle age to old age.”

Silva says scientists have long known about the existence of relational memory in humans. “What we don’t know is how the brain does it.”

This changed when Silver Lab started studying a molecule called CCR5.

In the body, CCR5 is a key component of the immune system. But in the brain, CCR5 regulates a process that helps distinguish recent memories from older ones. Without that breakup, we wouldn’t know if we met anyone at the wedding we attended last week, or at a conference that took place decades ago.

Silva doubted that the CCR5 molecule could explain why humans and rats develop memory problems related to aging.

“But we tested, and voila,” he says.

It has been shown that the level of CCR5 increases with age and the ability to link memories seems to be “off”.

Silver Lab tested the concept in rats that have a disabled form of CCR5.

These rats can attach memories created at intervals of one week, while normal rats can attach memories created within a few hours of each other.

The team then took the normal, middle-aged rat and inserted maravirak into the hippocampus, an area of ​​the brain that is important for memory.

“This drug gave you the same thing,” Silva said. “It restores memory linking.”

Possible treatment of stroke

The results are promising for the elderly and even for stroke patients, Carmichael said.

In 2019, Silva and Carmichael were among the authors of a study that showed that levels of CCR5 increased rapidly after a stroke.

In the short term, this explosion of CCR5 activates systems that help brain cells survive, Carmichael says. “The problem is that these systems are active and they limit the ability of those brain cells to recover.”

To repair long-term damage from stroke, brain cells need to make new links – a process similar to the one used to connect certain memories. CCR5 prevents this.

So Silva and Carmichael tried to kill a rat with a stroke or a brain injury. Certainly, they recovered faster than the other rats.

They then studied a group of stroke patients with genes that gave them normally low doses of CCR5. Again, this means faster recovery.

Carmichael is currently involved in a study that will test whether Maravirok can help people with stroke.

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