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ASU and TGEN team up to find a treatment for progressive cognitive impairment


February 09, 2009
A new collaborative study between Arizona State University and Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has reported that a safe and effective drug used to treat vascular problems in the brain improved learning and memory in middle-aged rats. The finding supports the scientific quest for a substance that could treat progressive cognitive impairment, cushion the cognitive impact of normal aging, or even enhance learning and memory throughout the life span. "Fasudil shows great promise as a cognitive enhancer during aging,'' said Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson, an Assistant Professor in ASU's Department of Psychology. "The effects in our aging-animal model were robust, showing enhancements in both learning and two measures of memory. The possibility that these findings may translate to benefits to human brain health and function is very exciting." Hydroxyfasudil inhibits the activity of Rho-kinase enzymes, which have been shown to elevate Rac1, a vital protein that supports key cellular functions. "If Fasudil proves to be safe and effective in enhancing learning and memory, it could represent a viable new option for the prophylactic treatment of disorders with a cognitive decline component. This could include diseases like Alzheimer's as well as general age-related impairment. In short, it may be a new pharmaceutical weapon that could be used even before the occurrence of symptoms," said Dr. Matthew Huentelman, an Investigator in TGen's Neurogenomics Division.