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Nicotine drug could slow dementia

14th July 2008

Research has shown that drugs which contain nicotine could act to "delay" the need for a dementia patient to go into care.

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Researchers at Kings College London have found, through tests on rats, that nicotine could offer people with dementia "up to six extra months of independent living".

The team discovered that nicotine enhanced the rats' capacity to perform tasks correctly.

If the rats were allowed to concentrate fully on a task they were able to respond accurately when stimulated 80% of the time. If they were given nicotine the rate increased to 5%.

If the rats were distracted then they responded correctly around 55% of the time. When they were given nicotine it increased to 85%.

The team, who work at the Institute of Psychiatry, investigated how proteins responded to nicotine and looked closely at the chemicals dopamine and noradrenaline.

They found that nicotine is able to stimulate how adrenaline is carried around the body. The team hope more research will be done to find substances which stimulate the brain more than nicotine.

Lead researcher Professor Ian Stolerman said: "Nicotine, like many other drugs, has multiple effects, some of which are harmful, whereas others may be beneficial.

"It may be possible for medicinal chemists to devise compounds that provide some of the beneficial effects of nicotine while cutting out the toxic effects."

Professor Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "More research is now needed to find a safe and effective treatment for dementia, with the potential benefits of nicotine, but without the health risks."

 

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