Health Team

New Alzheimer's Drug May Help Sustain Memories

Posted January 12, 2007 2:49 p.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2007 5:50 p.m. EST

— Alzheimer's disease is a devastating illness that steals away memories, but a Chinese herb could lead to a breakthrough to slow the effects.

Many long-term memories are fine, but Alzheimer's disease makes short-term memory fade quickly. Health experts said a chemical called acetycholine helps new memories travel through the brain.

Alzheimer's disease affects the production of acetycholine, in effect stealing memories. However, researchers hope a experimental drug, huperzine, which is derived from a natural Chinese herb, can change that.

Dr. Hillel Grossman of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, said it works similar to drugs currently on the market that boost acetycholine. He is testing it on patients to see if it works better.

"If you can prop up the amount of the acetylcholine that is there, that's available, flowing through the neurons then memory can be sustained," he said.

The new is part of a nationwide clinical trial. One of the testing sites is at UNC Hospitals. If you would like more information, you can call 919-966-5039.