Scientists have found that a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis may pave the way for a pill that can erase bad memories.
Researchers have found that mice given fingolimod, a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of multiple sclerosis, had enhanced ‘memory extinction’ of previous experiences that had caused pain.
If the effects of the drug apply to humans, it may offer new treatment options for sufferers of post-traumatic stress, phobias and eating disorders.
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Fingolimod, available as a tablet under the brand name Gilenya, treats remitting forms of MS by suppressing the immune system.
Sarah Spiegel, of the Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, and colleagues found that it can also inhibit an enzyme called histone deacetylase, a key protein that regulates gene expression, The Times reported.
When fed to mice, fingolimod crossed the blood-brain barrier and was faster at extinguishing “previously acquired fear memories”.
The mice were put in a chamber where their feet were exposed to a mild electric shock, and when returned to the cage the extent to which they froze to the spot was recorded as a measure of anxiety.
This complete lack of movement, known as “freezing” – a fear response in rodents providing a good indication of memory – subsided rapidly after receiving the drug.
The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.