Scientists were "shocked and amazed" at the effects of a common cancer drug in battling Alzheimer's in mice. The disease causes a buildup of plaque in the brain—but just hours after mice received bexarotene, the plaque began to disappear and the mice got smarter, AFP reports. The drug increases a protein that helps get rid of the plaque. "Things like this had never, ever been seen before," says a scientist at Case Western Reserve University.
Young people's bodies can easily dispose of the amyloid plaque, but "many of us will be unable to do this as efficiently as we age," the study's lead author adds. But the drug cut soluble amyloid levels by 75%, an effect that held for three days. The mice became more social, did better on tests, and regained their sense of smell, which can be lost with Alzheimer's. Now, researchers are working on human clinical tests, with some results expected this year. (Read more Alzheimer's Disease stories.)