A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Can an HIV Drug Treat Alzheimer’s?


A small clinical trial will look at a novel approach to treating the devastating disease.

With a new grant from the Alzheimer’s Association, a team of researchers from Brown University, Butler Hospital, and The Miriam Hospital will conduct a phase-one clinical trial of a drug that could potentially provide a new avenue for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug, called emtricitabine (Emtriva), is from a class of therapeutics typically used to treat HIV and AIDS. Research by John Sedivy, PhD, the Hermon C. Bumpus Professor of Biology and director of the Brown Center on the Biology of Aging, has shown that the drug can potentially reduce a type of age-related cellular inflammation that has been associated with Alzheimer’s. This new clinical trial is an initial step toward determining if the drug may benefit people with the disease.

“There’s been a tremendous push to start thinking about Alzheimer’s and other age-associated diseases in new ways,” says Sedivy, who is also affiliated with the Brown Institute for Translational Science. “That is exactly what we’re doing with this study by using a class of drugs that has never been used before in this context. We know that the Alzheimer’s brain is an inflamed brain, and we’re hopeful that by down-regulating that inflammation we can modify the course of the disease.”

The trial is supported by a $750,000 grant from the Alzheimer’s Association’s Part the Cloud Translational Research Funding program, which aims to increase funding for early-stage clinical trials of promising new drug treatments. Sedivy and Stephen Salloway, MD, the Martin M. Zucker Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, a professor of neurology, and the director of Butler Hospital’s Memory and Aging Program, will lead the research.

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