Anti-inflammatory drugs which were utilized to treat many diseases like Rheumatic arthritis may be useful to help fight cognitive problems post-surgery. The study was conducted by researchers at Imperial College London and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The reason behind memory loss or other hypothesis of cognitive dysfunction which is experienced by many post-surgery may come to light with a specific inflammatory response in the brain.

The research which was conducted on mouse models may soon be subject to human clinical trials the authors say. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It has been a struggle for the anesthesiologists and neurologist to determine the reason behind some of the patients especially those older who experience confusion, memory loss and learning disorders after surgery. It is a condition known as post-operative cognitive decline.

Though short term, this delirium is widely seen in the intensive care units. Permanent dementia, mortality, poor surgical results and lack of ability to cope has been linked to the delirium.

Researchers have not been able to decipher the etiology of the disorder and its treatment. It is suggested that it is caused by cell-to-cell signaling molecules called Cytokines which are released by the cells of the immune system. The activity of Cytokines which is targeted by drugs which are previously in use and could effectively fight cognitive decline.

Mervyn maze, MB ChB, Prof and Chairman of the Dept of Anesthesiology and pre-operative care at UCSF and a visiting Prof in the Dept of surgery and cancer at Imperial college of London said, “Antibody therapies already are widely used against cytokines to prevent or treat inflammation, so we know that these are effective in humans.

This study suggests that one day we also might be able to use these therapies as a single, pre-surgical dose to prevent cognitive decline in susceptible patients.” A single dose of the anti TNF antibody was given to mice before the surgical procedure. It was noticed that the treatment lowered blood levels of IL-I beta, limited inflammation in brain and prevented the mice from showing behavioral signs of cognitive determination. The team also worked with Professor Sir Marc Feldmann – a leader in cytokine research in inflammatory disorders and Head of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College London.

According to the study the TNF acts "upstream" of IL-1 and triggers immune responses during surgery that provokes the production of IL-1 in the brain, Professor Maze said. That in turn contributes to cognitive decline after surgery or critical illness.

"This is an important observation, as it demonstrates that cytokines are potential therapeutic targets in a wider range of diseases, not just autoimmune disease and cancer for which they are known targets," Professor Feldmann said. "Moreover, effective therapeutics already is available, with a known safety profile and modest cost if used short term."