Age-Related Memory Loss – Do We Have A Candidate For A Cure?

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For a long time it was thought that age-related memory loss was a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease, and not a separate condition. Recently however the tide has been turning and more and more research is being done that is showing that there is indeed a distinction between the two.

This is important for many reasons, but most notably for treatment options. With a thorough understanding of dementia we can effectively develop drugs for them and treat people for the right condition. Alzheimer’s disease affects memory by first acting on the entorhinal cortex (EC), a brain region that provides the major input pathways to the hippocampus. The research undertaken recently has shown that that age-related memory loss is actually affecting the denate gyrus (DG).

Recent research performed by the Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC) has supported this by providing the first true molecular evidence for the differentiation of the two conditions. Led by Eric R. Kandel, the research managed to pinpoint age-related memory loss to a deficiency in a protein called RbAp48. This protein resides in the hippocampus, an important centre for memory within the brain.

The study consisted of two main phases of research; one performed on postmortem human brain cells and the other on living mice. The initial phase largely involved performing microassay (gene expression) analyses on tissue from people free of brain disease. The second phase involved the study of aged mice. The mice were analysed for their levels of RbAp48 and these were found to be lower than in young mice. Young mice were then taught a variety of tasks which they had to learn how to do from memory to obtain food rewards. Their cognitive function was then effected by giving them a RbAp48 inhibitor. The mice forget their tasks and displayed cognitive abilities on a par with much older mice. They were then taken off of their inhibitor medication and their memories returned. A separate arm of research undertaken at the same time used viral gene transfer to give enhanced doses of RbAp48 to older mice gave them the brain functionality on young mice.

The reason that age-related memory loss can be treated this way is because that, unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there is no significant loss of neurons so the effects are potentially reversible.

The full study was published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine and can be read here: http://stm.sciencemag.org/

Further information can be found here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130828144834.htm

The article photo is of the hippocampus region of the brain is provided courtesy of:

http://mgitecetech.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/scerets-behind-memories/

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