Do We Already Have A Drug That Could Epigenetically Erase Traumatic Memories?

Scientists at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine discovered that the drug fingolimod, which is used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), could potentially benefit individuals who wish to get rid of painful and traumatic memories. While MS is still not entirely understood, the disease involves a process that is immune-mediated in which the immune system attacks healthy parts of the body, namely the central nervous system – the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves. Fingolimod, or FTY720, is a drug that acts to suppress the immune system, thereby potentially treating MS.

In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that this drug could have an additional molecular function, aside from its involvement in the immune system. Using a mouse model, the team demonstrated that fingolimod can accumulate in the brain and lead to the inhibition of class 1 histone deactylases (HDACs), enhancing specific histone acetylations. They also found an increase in the expression of a number of genes relevant to memory processes.

Corresponding author and renowned researcher, Sarah Spiegel, Ph.D., notes that the positive effects of fingolimod are not fully understood and this newly discovered activity may mediate the drug’s beneficial effects.

“It will be important in the future to determine whether this prodrug can reduce loss of cognitive functions and can erase adverse memories,” she said.

Although they have been used to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders, histone deactylase inhibitors’ mechanisms of effectiveness are not entirely understood.

“FTY720/fingolimod may be a useful adjuvant therapy to help stop aversive memories such as in post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders,” Spiegel indicates. She also cautions that “the work has not been extended to show effectiveness in humans at this time.”

Researchers are still working on unraveling the mystery of the exact molecular underpinnings linked to fingolimod’s effect on memory.

Bailey Kirkpatrick

Source: Learn all about it and read more about their findings here: Active, phosphorylated fingolimod inhibits histone deacetylases and facilitates fear extinction memory. Hait, N. C., et al. 2014.

References: Virginia Commonwealth University News. Basic research shows that drug used to treat multiple sclerosis may have beneficial effects on memory. 2014. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. What is MS?.

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