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Epilepsy Drugs May Treat Alzheimer's

Study Shows Calcium Channel Blockers May Treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 29, 2009 -- A group of drugs used to treat epilepsy may also treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

New research shows treatment with T-type calcium channel blockers, used to treat epilepsy, protected nerve cells from the brains of mice that can be damaged by neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Researchers say there aren't any effective medications that protect brain cells from age-related damage and degeneration. If these findings hold up under further study in humans, they could lead to a new class of more effective treatments for age-related neurological diseases.

Calcium-signaling pathways play an important role in the survival of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. As people age, this process can become disrupted and can lead to cognitive and functional decline.

Researchers say that opens up the possibility of using chemicals like calcium channel blockers that are involved in the calcium-signaling process to protect the nerve cells from death.

The study, published in Molecular Neurodegeneration, looked at the effects of treatment with calcium channel blockers on the brain cells of mice.

Researchers found neurons showed an increase in viability after treatment with the calcium channel blockers over both the long term and short term.

"Our data provides implications for the use of this family of anti-epileptic drugs in developing new treatments for neuronal injury, and for the need of further studies of the use of such drugs in age-related neurodegenerative disorders," says researcher Jianxin Bao, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, in a news release.

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