There is good news for senior citizens suffering from dementia. Researchers are conducting clinical trials of a new drug that could probably bring back restore the memory of such patients using a new compound.

The compound has been undergoing laboratory trials and seems to be restoring the capacity to form new memories in aging rats. Researchers say that the new compound could improve the survival of newborn neurons in the area of brain where the memory is processed.

The new drug can be taken orally. It crosses the blood-brain barrier with long-lasting effects, and is safely tolerated by mice during development.

"This neuroprotective compound, called P7C3, holds special promise because of its medication-friendly properties," stated Steven McKnight, Ph.D., who co-led the research with Andrew Pieper, M.D., Ph.D., both of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. The neuro-protective compound P7C3 was discovered by testing more than 1000 small molecules in living mice.

The new compound P7C3 was created after testing more than 1000 small molecules in live mice. It was found capable of correcting deficits in the brain of adult mice. Among clues to the mechanism by which P7C3 works, the researchers discovered that it protects the integrity of machinery for maintaining a cell's energy level.

The researchers tested P7C3in aged rats to find out if the compound could similarly stem aging-associated neuronal death and cognitive decline.

Rodents treated with P7C3 for two months significantly outperformed their placebo-treated peers. There was also a threefold higher-than-normal level of newborn neurons in the dentate gyrus of the treated animals. Rats were used instead of mice for this phase of the study because the genetically engineered mice could not swim.

The researchers pinpointed a derivative of P7C3, called A20, which is even more protective than the parent compound. The A20 derivative proved 300 times more potent than one of these compounds currently in clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease.

The research was partly funded by the National Institutes of Health. The findings are reported in the journal Cell.