Research shows nicotine therapies slow onset of dementia & mild cognitive impairment

Research shows nicotine therapies slow onset of dementia & mild cognitive impairment

An estimated 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s related dementia, and nearly eighty percent of these patients experience a preceding diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or MCI.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 20 percent of people over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with either of these conditions.  But scientists from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, now suspect that nicotine therapies can significantly slow the onset of these memory-related disorders.

Patients suffering from MCI or dementia often experience extended periods of forgetfulness, but these temporary bouts of memory loss extend far beyond the common mishaps of misplacing one’s car keys or the remote control.  Patients suffering from dementia or MCI might forget to eat, bathe, or take their medications – actions that can directly and adversely affect their overall health, safety, and general well-being.

Overview of the Vanderbilt nicotine research

Vanderbilt’s Dr. Paul Newhouse is no stranger to nicotine research.  Over the years, he has co-authored multiple papers surrounding nicotine therapies for Alzheimer’s patients.   In 1990, his research entitled Neuroendocrine, physiologic, and behavioral responses following intravenous nicotine in nonsmoking healthy volunteers and in patients with Alzheimer's disease focused on intravenously applied nicotine supplements.  In the years following, his methods evolved into transdermal nicotine patch therapies.  With today’s constantly advancing vaping technology, nicotine therapies may prove to be even more patient-friendly and cost-effective than previously imagined.

One of Newhouse’s more noteworthy clinic trails lasted over 6-months and involved some 70 patients suffering from MCI.  His research is published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCBI).   Key findings include the following.

      • Of the 70 participants, half were asked to wear transdermal nicotine patches for a period of 6-months.

      • Since it was a double-blind study, even the researchers had no idea which patients received the real nicotine patches and which ones received placebos.

      • Throughout the course of the clinic trail, the scientists conducted numerous memory tests with each participant.

      • Of those who received the real nicotine therapies, they experienced a cumulative approximate increase in long-term memory functions of about 46 percent.

      • The placebo group, on the other hand, experienced an average cumulative decrease in memory functions of about 26 percent.

This clinic trail is largely considered so successful by the scientific community that Dr. Newhouse and his team have already received funding for a more elaborate research project.  The next clinical trial – appropriately named MIND or Memory Improvement Through Nicotine Dosing - will involve 300 patients suffering from dementia and MCI compared to the previous 70-member control group.  Furthermore, the new study will last for a full 2-years instead of the previous 6-months, and the patients will range in age from 55 and upwards.     

“People think of [Nicotine] as a potentially noxious substance, but it’s a plant-derived medication just like a lot of other medications.”
  
“I am convinced that we will find a way to help improve early memory loss and make a real difference in people’s lives. In this study, we have an inexpensive, widely available potential treatment.”
 
- Paul Newhouse, Director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at Vanderbilt University
 

 Related Article: 53% of Americans mistakenly think nicotine is carcinogenic, says new study

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