Slovenian researchers win award for treating dog dementia

Ljubljana, 25 January - Urban Košak from the Faculty of Pharmacy in Ljubljana and his team have received an award at the prestigious Biofit event, focused on early-stage innovations in life sciences held in Marseille earlier this month, for developing a new drug to alleviate the symptoms of dementia in dogs.

Urban Košak s Fakultete za farmacijo v Ljubljani je z ekipo prejel nagrado za najbolj inovativen projekt na področju zdravja živali na prestižnem dogodku Biofit, namenjenem prenosu tehnologij iz akademske sfere v industrijo in inovacijam v zgodnji fazi. Prvo mesto so si prislužili z novim zdravilom za lajšanje simptomov pasje demence.
Foto: Biofit

In the initial stages of the project several years ago, researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine developed a new selective inhibitor of butyrylcholinesterase, a substance that can affect brain processes, and improve memory, cognitive functions and learning abilities.

After conducting tests on laboratory mice with induced symptoms of Alzheimer's, the team conducted trial treatments in dogs suffering from dementia and got positive results, Košak explained.

All of the canines who were treated with the drug showed significant improvement, while the condition of those in the control group deteriorated significantly and the majority had to be put down, said Ljubljana University Rector Gregor Majdič, adding that "the drug has great potential for treating dementia in dogs, possibly even in humans."

The drug has been patented and now the team wants to licence it for a pharmaceutical company dealing with treatments for animals and people. But this will require a lager clinical study and further funding, which is currently not available, Košak noted.

He also pointed out there is currently no effective drug for treating dementia in dogs on the market, and the same goes for treating Alzheimer's disease in people.

"The new drug stimulates synaptic activity and thus the central nervous system, relieving the symptoms of dementia, which causes nerve cell deterioration. It works similarly to the drugs used to treat people with Alzheimer's disease ... except that it effects a different enzyme," Košak explained, adding that no side effects were recorded.

Data on dementia in dogs varies. "Most data suggests 20% to 50% of dogs older than 12 get dementia ... but it is often brushed aside as a symptom of ageing when it is in fact a disease causing nerve cell deterioration," Majdič noted.