'An existing antidepressant drug could 'improve old age for millions' by slowing the progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, Cambridge University scientists believe.
The first human trials will start later this year to determine if the drug trazodone can protect against the march of neurodegenerative conditions.
The medicine is already licensed in the UK for the treatment of depression but has not been used previously as a potential treatment for dementia.
If the early trials on healthy humans are successful, researchers will then test the drug on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients.
They expect to confirm whether it is an effective treatment within five years.
And, because the existing drug has already been shown to be safe, it could become available to patients as an NHS-approved treatment much more quickly than newly developed drugs.
Lead scientist Professor Giovanna Mallucci, of the UK Dementia Research Institute, said the drug was thought to work by boosting production rates of proteins which protect against brain cell death - a process known as protein synthesis.
She told the Dementias 2019 conference in London last week: 'Delaying this process [of brain cell degeneration] will improve old age for millions, which I would consider an amazingly good result in the treatment of dementia.
'If we could keep people at their early cognitive presentation or even just slow down the rate at which they decline, I think it would really transform lives.''
Read more: Antidepressant could 'improve old age for millions' by slowing the progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
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