Tag Archives: nsaid

Autoimmune Diseases May Be Linked to Dementia

Our immune system is pretty great. It helps us recover from injury and fight off deadly pathogens. However, sometimes the immune system does its job a little too well. In certain autoimmune diseases, immune cells can mistakenly recognize a part of our own body as a foreign invader and start attacking it. Depending on what type of tissue is being targeted, autoimmunity can lead to a variety of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis. Approximately 50 million Americans (20% of the population) have an autoimmune disease.

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Some of the most common autoimmune diseases. Image Source

A study published this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and and Community Health looked at the relationship between autoimmune diseases and dementia. The researchers used health records of more than 1.8 million people in England who were hospitalized for an autoimmune condition between 1998 and 2012. They found that these patients were 20% more likely to be later hospitalized for dementia compared to controls. They identified 18 autoimmune diseases that were significantly associated with dementia. When they examined the type of dementia, the autoimmune patients were at the greatest risk for vascular dementia, with a 28% higher risk than normal. The increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease was relatively small at 6%.

This study is in line with several previous papers that hinted at a possible link between autoimmunity and dementia. It’s been shown that people with two common autoimmune diseases, type 1 diabetes and thyroid autoimmune disease, are at an increased risk of dementia. The mechanism for this connection remains unknown, but it raises the interesting question of whether dementia may be related to the immune system.

Additionally, the study supports the possible use of NSAIDs as a way to reduce the risk of dementia. NSAIDs (which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) are some of the most commonly-used painkillers and can also be used to combat inflammation in autoimmune conditions. People who take NSAIDs tend to have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that using these drugs to treat an overactive immune system could have cognitive benefits as well.

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Advil, Aleve, and Motrin are some of the most common NSAIDs available over-the-counter. Image Source

Many doctors have begun prescribing baby aspirins to their patients in the hopes of decreasing their risk of dementia as well as cardiovascular disease. However, caution is necessary when considering an NSAID regimen. It’s possible that for some people, NSAIDs could be doing more harm than good, as one study suggested that these drugs may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s but increase the risk of vascular dementia. More research is needed before we can say conclusively whether NSAIDs may be beneficial for cognitive health.

 

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Menstrual Pain-Relievers May Protect from Alzheimer’s Disease

Background

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a broad class of pain-relievers that includes ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. NSAIDs work by decreasing the levels of pro-inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins. Interestingly, recent studies have found that NSAIDs may also be beneficial for reducing the risk of dementia. A 2015 meta-analysis found that short-term NSAID users had a 28% reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, while long-term users had a 64% reduction. Notably, this effect was only significant in observational studies and not randomized controlled trials, so a conclusive link between NSAIDs and brain health remains elusive.

One possible mechanism for how NSAIDs could combat Alzheimer’s is by regulating inflammatory pathways outside of prostaglandins. Studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is closely linked to a complex inflammatory network called the NLRP3 inflammasome. If NSAIDs could inhibit this inflammasome, it may protect the brain from neurodegeneration.

New Study

In a study published last week in Nature Communications, researchers investigated whether a class of NSAIDs called fenamates could inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome. Fenamate NSAIDs include mefanamic acid, a common medication used to treat menstrual pain. The researchers treated mouse cell cultures with fenmates and found that they selectively inhibited the NLRP3 inflammasome without interfering with other inflammatory pathways. The researchers then treated two animal models of Alzheimer’s disease (rats and mice) with mefanamic acid over an extended period of time. Memory tests administered to the rats showed reduced impairment when they were given the drug. Meanwhile, the mice’s brains showed that signs of neuroinflammation had been reduced to healthy levels.

A limitation of this study is that the NLRP3 inflammasome has still not been conclusively linked to Alzheimer’s in humans. It is also not clear how well these animal models simulate the neuroinflammatory aspects of the disease. Future studies will likely examine how fenamates and other NSAIDs affect inflammatory pathways in humans to determine their potential as therapy. If mefanamic acid is one day repurposed as an anti-dementia drug, it could avoid the lengthy pipeline for FDA approval and be available immediately to consumers.

 

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