Ultramicronized palmitoylethanolamide rescues learning and memory impairments in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease by exerting anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 31;8(1):32. doi: 10.1038/s41398-017-0076-4.


In an aging society, Alzheimer's disease (AD) exerts an increasingly serious health and economic burden. Current treatments provide inadequate symptomatic relief as several distinct pathological processes are thought to underlie the decline of cognitive and neural function seen in AD. This suggests that the efficacy of treatment requires a multitargeted approach. In this context, palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) provides a novel potential adjunct therapy that can be incorporated into a multitargeted treatment strategy. We used young (6-month-old) and adult (12-month-old) 3×Tg-AD mice that received ultramicronized PEA (um-PEA) for 3 months via a subcutaneous delivery system. Mice were tested with a range of cognitive and noncognitive tasks, scanned with magnetic resonance imaging/magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRI/MRS), and neurochemical release was assessed by microdialysis. Potential neuropathological mechanisms were assessed postmortem by western blot, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and immunofluorescence. Our data demonstrate that um-PEA improves learning and memory, and ameliorates both the depressive and anhedonia-like phenotype of 3×Tg-AD mice. Moreover, it reduces Aβ formation, the phosphorylation of tau proteins, and promotes neuronal survival in the CA1 subregion of the hippocampus. Finally, um-PEA normalizes astrocytic function, rebalances glutamatergic transmission, and restrains neuroinflammation. The efficacy of um-PEA is particularly potent in younger mice, suggesting its potential as an early treatment. These data demonstrate that um-PEA is a novel and effective promising treatment for AD with the potential to be integrated into a multitargeted treatment strategy in combination with other drugs. Um-PEA is already registered for human use. This, in combination with our data, suggests the potential to rapidly proceed to clinical use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / immunology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Amides
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / deficiency*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / drug effects*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / immunology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / metabolism
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiopathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / immunology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ethanolamines / administration & dosage
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacology*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Memory Disorders / immunology
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microdialysis
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Palmitic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Palmitic Acids / pharmacology*
  • tau Proteins / drug effects*


  • Amides
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Ethanolamines
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Palmitic Acids
  • tau Proteins
  • palmidrol