A new study at Roper St. Francis Hospital in Charleston is using nicotine to treat mild memory loss.
Dr. Paul Newhouse told South Carolina Radio Network that the MIND Study will test whether the nicotine patch can improve memory and functioning in people who have mild memory loss.
“What we want to do in this study is identify people with early memory loss that could be a warning sign that’s developing.”
The study funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation will use nicotine patches on patients.
According to a release from the MIND Study, memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Mild memory loss or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is most common in seniors and is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. There is no FDA-approved medication specifically indicated to treat mild memory loss or MCI.
The MIND Study is the longest and largest running study of its kind testing whether the nicotine patch can improve memory and functioning in people who have mild memory loss or MCI. The organization says, contrary to popular belief due to its unhealthy use in cigarettes, nicotine itself is natural and safe when used as directed. It is predominately found in tobacco plants, but also in tomatoes, eggplant and cauliflower.
Researchers say nicotine stimulates certain brain cells that can enhance brain function. They hope it could have could have significant benefits when it comes to treating MCI, because it is an inexpensive, readily available treatment.
The MIND Study is looking for 300 non-smoking adults over the age of 55 who are in the earliest stages of memory loss to participate. You may be eligible if you have been diagnosed with MCI or if you or your family members notice changes in your memory. There are 28 other sites across the country taking part in the study.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 15 to 20 percent of people age 65 or older have MCI and are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Researchers have been using nicotine in studies for more than 30 years, but this is by far the largest and longest running study of its kind testing whether nicotine is effective for non-smokers with mild memory loss.