Antibiotics Could Help Treat Early-Onset Dementia, Finds Study

“The team found that by adding a small antibiotic molecule to the cells, they could 'trick' the cellular machinery into making it.”


Early-onset dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal lobar dementia, is a type of dementia in which one has progressive atrophy of their brain’s frontal lobes, temporal lobes, or both.

The characteristic symptoms of this type of dementia include cognitive impairment and personality or behavioral changes, which may affect a person at an early age of 40.

Scientists have explained that frontotemporal dementia has a genetic predisposition in which most cases have specific DNA mutations.

New research, conducted by the scientists of the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine in Lexington and other research institutions, has studied the mutated genes linked to frontotemporal dementia.

The study, published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics, especially focused on a specific gene mutation associated with frontotemporal dementia, which regulates the production of progranulin, a protein.

The researchers explained that the genetic mutation stops the brain cells from producing progranulin, causing dementia-related pathologies.

They used cell cultures to determine whether they could stop the genetic mutation that inhibits the production of this protein.

Eventually, they found that some aminoglycosides, which belong to a class of antibacterial drugs, could be effective at fixing the genetic mutation, restoring the production of progranulin to more than 50 to 60 percent.

Study co-author Prof. Matthew Gentry said, “The brain cells [of people with frontotemporal dementia] have a mutation that prevents progranulin from being made. The team found that by adding a small antibiotic molecule to the cells, they could ‘trick’ the cellular machinery into making it.”

The researchers hope that their findings could help in the development of an antibiotic-like drug that can fight off some of the pathological mechanisms related to dementia.

Lead researcher Prof. Haining Zhu said, “If we can get the right resources and physician[s] to work with, we could potentially repurpose this drug.” This is an early stage of the study, but it provides an important proof of concept that these aminoglycoside antibiotics or their derivatives can be a therapeutic avenue for frontotemporal dementia.”