College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Compound could ward off memory loss

Researchers have discovered a compound that could be used to create drugs to help prevent memory loss linked to ageing.

The University study found that the compound significantly improved memory and brain function in ageing mice within just 10 days.

The work is funded by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery award.

The next step is to conduct further studies with our preclinical candidate to prove that the compound is safe to take into clinical trials, hopefully within a year.

Professor Brian WalkerProfessor of Endocrinology

Memory loss

Many people find they become more forgetful or have difficulty in concentrating as they get older. This is generally accepted as a natural part of the ageing process.

Such memory loss has been linked with high levels of 'stress' steroid hormones known as glucocorticoids.

An enzyme called 11beta-HSD1 is involved in making these hormones and has been shown to be more active in the brain during ageing.

Blocking key enzyme

The researchers found that by using a new synthetic compound they were able to block 11beta-HSD1.

In older mice the compound led to improvements in the ability of mice to complete a memory task, called the Y maze.

The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience and the drug development programme is led by Professor Brian Walker and Dr Scott Webster,

Normal old mice often have marked deficits in learning and memory just like some elderly people. We found that life-long partial deficiency of 11beta-HSD1 prevented memory decline with ageing. But we were very surprised to find that the blocking compound works quickly over a few days to improve memory in old mice suggesting it might be a good treatment for the already elderly.

Professor Jonathan SecklDirector of Research, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine