Published September 23, 2022
The School of Nursing is collaborating on a national study that adopts two counter-intuitive principles in its search for ways to treat memory loss among aging populations.
The two surprising concepts: Nicotine does not cause cancer and memory loss is not a normal part of aging.
“Researchers have long known that nicotine stimulates systems in the brain, which are important for thinking and memory,” says Natalie Argueta, a 2021 graduate of the School of Nursing’s accelerated bachelor’s degree program and now a student in the school’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.
“Thus, the Memory Improvement through Nicotine Dosing — or MIND Study — is testing the potential benefits of nicotine in improving memory and functioning in those with mild memory loss.”
Despite widespread misconceptions, memory loss is not a normal part of aging, according to Argueta and other researchers involved in the national study under the guidance of UBMD Neurology. In an attempt to learn more about possible treatments, the National Institutes of Health sponsored the MIND Study to test the “novel” concept of whether the safe use of nicotine, delivered by a patch, can delay or prevent further loss of memory functions in people diagnosed with mild memory loss or MCI.
Research has proven nicotine does not cause cancer and has more than a 30-year history of being safely used in memory studies, Argueta explains, noting that researchers have found nicotine stimulates parts of the brain crucial for thinking and memory, and are looking at its potential benefits at possibly delaying or preventing mild memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
“We would also add that mild memory loss disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic adults,” says Argueta. “And unfortunately, they are the most at-risk communities, as they are underrepresented in clinical trials. The MIND Study is hoping to increase the diversity of the participants to find a potential treatment for everyone.”
Argueta is part of the UB research team led by Kinga Szigeti, associate professor of neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. UB is one of 40 sites around the country involved in the study; some are still enrolling participants and some are closed for enrollment.
“We are excited to still be open for enrollment. We are still looking for non-smoking adult over the age of 55 who are in the earliest stages of memory loss,” Argueta says. “The research team hopes to continue this study as long as it remains open, as we are hoping to help individuals and future generations gain access to potential treatments for mild memory loss.”
More information is available at www.mindstudy.org or by calling 716-323-0549.
The MIND Study is by far the largest and longest-running study of its kind, testing whether nicotine can improve memory loss. No tobacco companies are involved in the design, financing or management of the study.
Argueta, who grew up in Culver City, Calif., came to UB after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has worked with those diagnosed with memory disorders for more than a decade.
“I was inspired by my mother, a certified nursing assistant with incredible compassion and care,” Argueta says. “She has been a CNA (certified nursing assistant) at least 25 years now and has worked in nursing homes my entire life. She was a single mother and could barely afford child care, so she would take me to work with her. I was a volunteer helping out with games, events and playing my violin for the residents.
“Overall, the opportunity to assist this community through a life-changing diagnosis and participate in the hunt for an effective treatment is what drew me and many of my colleagues into this field,” she says.
Other members of the research team are Nick Audino, study coordinator, and Bryan Tadlock, master’s research assistant.
The MIND Study is partnering with UBMD Neurology and the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease (CEAD). CEAD plans to work with the UB School of Nursing to provide education/training on working with older adults with dementia to undergraduate and graduate nursing students.
Excellent highlight of a UB translational human impact study. Very timely and interesting.