A drug developed by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, known as J147, improves memory and prevents brain damage in aged mice following short-term treatment. The findings, published May 14 in the journal Alzheimer's Research and Therapy, may pave the way to a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease in humans.J147 was developed at Salk in the laboratory of David Schubert, a professor in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory. He and his colleagues bucked the trend within the pharmaceutical industry, which has focused on the biological pathways involved in the formation of amyloid plaques, the dense deposits of protein that characterize the disease. Instead, the Salk team used living neurons grown in laboratory dishes to test whether their new synthetic compounds, which are based upon natural products derived from plants, were effective at protecting brain cells against several pathologies associated with brain aging. From the test results of each chemical iteration of the lead compound, they were able to alter their chemical structures to make them much more potent. Although J147 appears to be safe in mice, the next step will require clinical trials to determine whether the compound will prove safe and effective in humans.