Home E-Weekly April 11, 2017

Could Experimental Drug Block Post-operative Memory Loss?

Published: April 10, 2017

POST-OP COGNITIVE DECLINE After undergoing surgery, elderly patients often experience cloudy thinking that can last for weeks or even months.
It's long been thought that deep anesthesia caused post-operative cognitive decline, but a new study in mice suggests a different cause of the cloudy thinking that can last for weeks or even months: heightened inflammation in the brain following surgery. What's more, researchers might have uncovered an experimental drug that can block post-op memory loss.

When researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, gave mice a pre-operative dose of an experimental oral medication, PLX5622, that temporarily depletes microglia — specialized immune cells within the brain — the mice were much less likely to fail memory tests several days after surgery.

If the brain's own specialized immune cells trigger brain inflammation and cognitive decline following surgery, the UCSF team says PLX5622 could someday prove effective in humans.

The new research appears in JCI Insight, an online, open-access companion publication to the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

An inflammatory reaction in the brain is a normal response to tissue trauma occurring anywhere in the body, but researchers say the normally protective response can negatively impact cognition when there's too much inflammation.

Daniel Cook

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