Nicotine for Memory Loss
BURLINGTON, Vt. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that has no cure yet. As research continues, doctors and patients are both hoping for a breakthrough. Now, doctors are getting close to one with an unlikely treatment.
Harvey and Kay Ottinger have shared 50 years of homemade meals, so you can bet Kay noticed when Harvey's memory started slipping. She signed them both up for a memory test.
"We both went down there, and they screened us. Kay passed it very well, but I didn't pass," Harvey says. He enrolled in a study to test the effects of nicotine on memory loss.
Paul Newhouse, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at University of Vermont in Burlington, says, "Nicotine can improve learning. It can improve attentional performance."
For the study, patients with mild memory loss will wear a nicotine patch or placebo patch for a year. The hope is that nicotine can replace the chemicals lost as memory fades. Dr. Newhouse says researchers think it would provide a way to treat the earliest signs of memory loss and attentional loss. The patch does not cause addiction. In fact, nicotine is also being studied to treat schizophrenia, ADHD and Parkinson's.
Dr. Newhouse is excited about nicotine's potential for Alzheimer's. "This is the kind of work that makes my career and life and work seem meaningful," he says.
Harvey's not sure if he's on the real thing or a placebo, but either way, he says being in the study has already helped. "I take extra precautions like writing down certain things that I have to do," he says. "I feel good, yeah." And if he does forget something, Kay is right by his side to remind him.
Dr. Newhouse says nicotine does not pose any safety concerns and is only addictive when it's combined with tobacco. Nicotine patches may not be a practical treatment for long-term use, so drugs are being developed that mimic what it does in the brain.
The University of Vermont is one out of three centers studying nicotine. The other two centers are Duke University and Georgetown University.
This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Sally Ross Nolan, M.S.
University of Vermont Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit
1 So. Prospect Street, Arnold 6
Burlington, VT 05401