Researchers said they have been investigating a new treatment for frontotemporal dementia that involves the use of an antibiotic that is normally used for treating cancer. By using rapamycin, an antifungal antibiotic, on mice with early-stage frontotemporal dementia, researchers were able to rescue the learning and memory functions of the mice, as well as slow down their loss of motor function.
Even when using the drug in later stages of the disease, motor function was significantly improved, said Tsai Kuen-jer (蔡坤哲), an assistant professor at the Institute of Clinical Medicine at National Cheng Kung University, one of the lead authors of the research.
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by damage to the front of the brain and is likely to cause personality change as well as loss of memory, the ability to -communicate and motor function. It usually occurs to people with a family history of the disease.
Among other types of dementia — Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia — frontotemporal dementia tends to occur among a younger age group, Tsai said.
For people aged 65 and older, frontotemporal dementia is the fourth-most common cause of dementia, although it is ranked the second-most common cause of dementia for people aged under 65, he said. The antibiotic is normally used to treat cancer, Huntington’s disease — a neurological disorder that causes progressive degeneration of cells in the brain — and Alzheimer’s, he said. The new use of the drug will help people cope with a problem that affects about nine in every 100,000 people.