An experimental drug candidate for Alzheimer's was found to have an incredible anti-aging effect on mice.

The promising drug candidate, dubbed J147, targets old age itself, the Salk Institute reported. Mice that were given this novel treatment showed significant improvements in memory and cognition, as well as healthier blood vessels in the brain and other physiological features.

"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," said Antonio Currais, the lead author and a member of Professor David Schubert's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."

Most Alzheimer's treatments target amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, but these methods are rarely successful. Instead of targeting amyloid, this new treatment was synthesized from cell-based screens against old age-associated brain toxicities. Researchers found old mice that received J147 performed better on memory and cognition tests and had sharper motor skills than they had prior to treatment.

The treated mice also had fewer pathological signs of Alzheimer's in their brains. After looking at one set of mice that was young, one that was old, and one that was old but had received the experimental treatment, the researchers were able to determine many aspects of gene expression and metabolism in the treated mice resembled what was seen in the young mice. These characteristics included: "markers for increased energy metabolism, reduced brain inflammation and reduced levels of oxidized fatty acids in the brain." The drug also proved to prevent the leakage of blood from the microvessels in the brains of old mice. 

"Damaged blood vessels are a common feature of aging in general, and in Alzheimer's, it is frequently much worse," Currais said.

In the future, the researchers hope to move J147 into human clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease next year.

The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Aging.