Local researchers at the University of Alberta have made a discovery that could help people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Researchers have discovered a drug intended for diabetes, appears to restore memory in Alzheimer’s brain cells.

The team tested the memory of mice with normal brain cells and those with Alzheimer’s in a dish.

They sent electrical shocks to brain cells of the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory, and found that by applying a drug called AC253, the cells remembered the shocks, and memory was restored to levels similar to those in normal cells.

“You can actually restore that memory trace to levels that you might see in a normal animal of that particular age,” said researcher Jack Jhamandas, professor of neurology in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

“This is kind of an interesting and exciting finding because it tells us that elements of memory and learning, at least in the dish, can be restored to levels that you might normally expect by exposure to this drug called AC253.”

Jhamandas says the discovery could help future Alzheimer’s patients.

“I’m optimistic that our findings will pave the way for use of this drug or drugs that are based on this particular compound in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” Jhamandas said.

Jhamandas’s team plans on continuing research with the drug, testing if AC253 can help stop Alzheimer’s symptoms before they appear. It will take at least one year for the team to complete their research.

Jhamandas believes clinical trials for a drug aimed at helping Alzheimer’s patients could start within about five years, but stresses further testing needs to be done before such trials can occur.

“I don’t think one approach or one treatment will do the job. I think this will be a concerted effort and I think our drug or our compound will be a part of the solution,” he said.