Nicotine may slow dementia

By Coconut · Jul 14, 2008 · ·
  1. Coconut
    [h1]Nicotine drug 'may slow dementia'[/h1]
    Source: BBC


    Nicotine-based drugs may help delay the moment a person with dementia has to enter a care home, say researchers.

    Nicotine has toxic effects, and carries a strong risk of addiction, but scientists have shown it can also boost learning, memory and attention.

    The effect is small, but it may help give dementia patients up to six extra months of independent living.

    A team at King's College London have demonstrated the positive effects of nicotine in experiments on rats.

    They showed that nicotine boosted the animals' ability to carry out a task accurately - particularly when they were also distracted.

    When able to give full concentration, the animals responded correctly to stimuli about 80% of the time. Nicotine boosted the accuracy rate by about 5%.

    However, when distracted, the animals' success rate fell to about 55%. In this case nicotine brought it back up to around the 85% level.

    Biochemical mechanisms

    The King's team, based at the Institute of Psychiatry, studied the mechanisms which underpin the effects produced by nicotine.

    They showed how proteins on the surface of cells respond to the compound, and pinned down the role of several key chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and noradrenaline.

    It transpired that there are only subtle biochemical differences in the way nicotine stimulates the brain, and triggers addiction.

    Key is the fact that nicotine stimulates flow of the hormone adrenaline in the body, which can produce both effects.

    Several nicotinic drugs are already in development, but the King's team hopes its work will speed up the discovery of agents which give the brain a bigger boost than nicotine, with longer lasting effects.

    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 Stolerman stressed that the positive effects produced by nicotine were small, and would be of no benefit to most people.

    However, he said they could potentially make a difference to dementia patients.

    He added that the "cognitive boost" that many smokers experience from nicotine may contribute to the pleasure they get from their habit.

    'Don't smoke'

    Professor Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Although nicotine has therapeutic qualities, when it is absorbed through smoking the health risks outweigh the benefits.

    "Smoking increases risk of vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia and is associated with a number of other health risks.

    "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."

    Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, agreed that people should not be tempted to smoke to try to ward off dementia. She said the best way to minimise risk was to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

    Professor Stolerman said there was no reason to believe that nicotine or smoking reduced the risk of getting dementia - it only helps to reverse symptoms.

    It is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK live with dementia.

    The research will be presented to a Federation of European Neuroscience Societies conference in Geneva.

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  1. chillinwill
    Here is another article on this same topic about nicotine boosting memory and concentration.


    Smoking can help boost memory and concentration, say scientists. The discovery offers hope of a nicotine pill that mimics these effects to treat Alzheimer's disease.

    Experts are developing drugs that copy the active ingredients in tobacco that stimulate the brain without causing heart disease, cancer, stroke or addiction.

    The move follows the discovery that nicotine can boost the intelligence and recall ability of animals in laboratory experiments.

    The researchers, who present their latest findings at a brain conference today, hope that the new drugs, which will be available in five years, could have fewer side effects than existing medicines for dementia.
    But they stress the new treatment would not be a cure for Alzheimer's disease. At best it will only give patients a few extra months of independent life.

    Tobacco has long been known to have a stimulating effect on the brain. Victorian doctors recommended smoking as a means of sharpening the wits and boosting concentration.

    However, the deadly side effects of cancer, stroke and heart disease, mean its benefits have been neglected by medical research.
    Professor Ian Stoleman, from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, has shown that nicotine can improve the performance of rats in an intelligence and memory test.

    "The substances that we call drugs have, in the majority of cases, do have a mixture of beneficial and harmful effects and nicotine no exception to this," he said.

    "When we started this work 10 years ago we didn't think that we would find beneficial effects on cognitive performance on normal subjects.
    "But we were able to find an effect in the sense of the acute administration of nicotine producing small improvements in performance of tasks in normal rats."

    His team trained rats to respond to a brief flash of light by standing in an area of a cage. If they moved to the right spot, they were rewarded with a food pellet.

    After they mastered the task, the rats responded correctly around 80 per cent of the time. But after being injected with nicotine, the success rate went up 5 per cent.

    The difference was much starker when the rats were distracted with loud noises. Then they got the task right 50 per cent of the time without nicotine - but 80 per cent of the time with it.

    Prof Stolerman's team have studied how nicotine alters the brain's circuitry to boost memory and concentration - and identified some of key brain receptors and chemical messengers - such as dopamine and glutamate - that are involved.

    They also found differences in the chain of events that leads to boosted brain power - and the chain of events that leads to addiction.
    "We believe that by building on these differences it may be possible for medicinal chemists to devise compounds that produce some of the beneficial effects of nicotine," he said.

    The findings are being presented today at the Forum of European Neuroscience in Geneva.

    Drugs companies have been working for 10 to 15 years to develop compounds based on nicotine that produce only beneficial effects. The new discoveries could lead to a new drug - based on nicotine - within "a few years".
  2. cra$h
    haha, i always knew nicotine was good for something. of course this will be shot down pretty quick.....
  3. Panthers007
    Brought to you by the Jesse Helms Medical Institute & Butcher-Shop. - East Bumfuck, North Carolina.

    Now, of course, saving those six months before the door swings shut is a good thing indeed. Too bad Grandpa dropped dead of cancer 15 years before (he says - rolling a cigarette of American Spirit tobacco).
  4. Lobsang
    Well actually there is some fairly good initial evidence that smoking may also slow or prevent Parkinsons Disease. But apparently one has to smoke for a long time and a lot. So one would be causing other risk factors. I mean there is no evidence that once someone has the disease if they take up therapeutic smoking it will be of any help. So you see then deductively Mohammad Ali got Parkinson's disease and the reason he got it is that he did not smoke cigarettes. It makes sense to me.
  5. snow_queen
    Very interesting. All the people that I know who have Parkinson's disease, my father included, never smoked. Hmmm...thanks for sharing the info:)
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