Alzheimer’s is surely among the best known & most studied ailments that affect the human brain. Actively exercising your brain & body appears to be the best active defence against contracting the condition. Inheriting good genes, is the best passive defence.
There is no 100% effective treatment for Alzheimer’s but there are drugs that appear to have some benefit. One of the most unusual, from a chemical structure standpoint, is Memantine. The name of the drug has roots in the word diamond & a link to the X-Men of comic book fame.
What is the Structure of Diamond?
A typical molecular model of diamond is shown below. It takes the shape of the lattice structure known as face centered cubic (FCC) which gives it its renowned strength. What is not as commonly known is that diamonds will burn although with a somewhat higher ignition temperature than wood (900C vs 300C respectively). You can view a rotating version of this structure on Wikipedia-Diamond.
Can You See the Diamond in Adamantane?
Adamantane is organic diamond for lack of a better description. The structure is limited to just 10 carbon atoms unlike diamond which theoretically can link indefinitely. Each carbon has no more than 2 links to any other carbon unlike diamond which can have 4. So, this makes adamantane much weaker.
Can You See the Diamond in Memantine?
If you look closely, you can see that the structure of memantine is virtually the same as diamond except for the substitution of an amine group (nitrogen in blue + 2 hydrogens). It is this minor difference which converts a simple chemical into a drug that moderates the behaviour of nerve cell communication.
The name memantine appears to be a portmanteau, a word created from the combination of memory & adamantane.
You can build your own Memantine using our 3D Molecular Model Builder.
So Where Do the X-Men Come In?
The drug memantine that treats Alzheimers is similar to adamantane which is similar to diamond. Diamond is sometimes described as adamantine from the Greek word meaning strong or unyielding.
Adamantium is the fictional metal found in Wolverine’s skeleton making him nearly indestructible. So, with a bit of poetic licence, an amine links a strong body with a sound mind.