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Statins may beat Alzheimer's

A common cholesterol-lowering drug may be effective against Alzheimer's if given at an early stage of the disease, new research shows.

The findings, from a mouse study, add to laboratory evidence that cholesterol-lowering statins may prevent some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Earlier work by the same Canadian team showed that the drug simvastatin improved blood flow in the brains of year-old laboratory mice with Alzheimer's.

The new study found it also boosted learning and memory -- but only in younger six-month-old animals whose disease had not progressed.

Younger mice had higher levels of memory-related proteins in the hippocampus, the brain's memory centre.

In both cases, the animals received higher doses of simvastatin. Significantly, statin treatment had no effect on one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's, a build-up of amyloid beta protein in the brain.