Diuretic pill could be potential treatment for Alzheimer’s, scientists say

A commonly prescribed water pill could potentially be repurposed as a possible Alzheimer’s disease treatment for some people who are genetically at risk, scientists have said.

Researchers have called for more studies to find out whether a common diuretic could be used as an Alzheimer’s treatment after a range of studies suggested a protective effect.

Diuretics, also called water pills, are drugs which increase the amount of water and salt expelled from the body as urine.

One, bumetanide, has been outlined as a potential treatment candidate for some people who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s in a new study published in the journal, Nature Ageing.

A team of researchers from across the US found that those who took bumetanide had a significantly lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s compared to those who are not taking the drug.

Experts analysed information from databases of brain tissue samples and drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), performed mouse and human cell experiments, and explored human population studies.

Dr Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging in the US, said: “Though further tests and clinical trials are needed, this research underscores the value of big data-driven tactics combined with more traditional scientific approaches to identify existing FDA-approved drugs as candidates for drug repurposing to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”

Researchers analysed data derived from 213 brain tissue samples and looked at the levels to which genes are turned on or off for a gene called APOE4 – which has already been linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Then they compared these “gene expression signatures” to those of more than 1,300 known FDA-approved drugs.

Five drugs emerged with a gene expression signature that the researchers believed might help “neutralise” the disease, with bumetanide outlined as the strongest potential candidate.

It is used to treat heart failure and the build-up of fluid in the body – also known as oedema.

The researchers found that treating mice which expressed the human APOE4 gene with the diuretic reduced learning and memory deficits.

The finding was repeated in human cell-models.

The team then assessed the data on five million people – adults over 65 who took bumetanide compared to those who did not.

The analysis showed that those who had the genetic risk and took bumetanide had a 35% to 75% lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those not taking the drug.

Dr Jean Yuan, drug development program director in the NIA Division of Neuroscience, said: “We know that Alzheimer’s disease will likely require specific types of treatments, perhaps multiple therapies, including some that may target an individual’s unique genetic and disease characteristics — much like cancer treatments that are available today.

“The data in this paper make a good case to conduct a proof-of-concept trial of bumetanide in people with genetic risk.”