Researchers have been slicing and dicing up brains to see just why you can’t remember where your keys and cell phone are. Recent studies using healthy donated brains of people between the ages of 33 and 89 and mice show that as you age, it is normal to experience memory loss and science may be able to prevent or cure elderly forgetfulness.
The Columbia University New York Brain Bank donated a total of 18 brains to originally contract any research they could on Alzheimer’s disease. Instead they found a protein called RbAp48 that plays a large role in memory retention. Two portions of the brains were removed from all to collect research each relevant to either aging and Alzheimer’s.
A region shaped like a boomerang in the hippocampus called the denate gyrus was removed as well as the entorhinal cortex, also located in the hippocampus. The denate gyrus function declines with age and so far has no link to or is afftected by Alzheimer’s. When Alzheimer’s sets in, the entorhinal cortex is where it starts its grasp killing off neurons. By comparing the two regions researchers are able to draw conclusions in the difference of each from the other.
RbAp48 plays a release switch role for memory genes. Without RbAp48, chromosomes are unable to release from the molecular system they wind around therefore holding the gene in a dormant state. This prevents you from remembering things, as they are sort of stored in an inaccessible zip drive in your brain.
This study yielded information that led scientists to find that a protein called RbAp48 starts to disappear while people age. In the dentate gyrus there were 17 total genes that became more or less active depending on the age of the specimen. RbAp48 levels were also lower in the older mice used in the testing.
By creating mice without RbAp48 genes, scientists could see the difference and pin point what protein was making memory loss so common in people, and animals, to manufacture a remedy as to cure it. In the end, they found that the mice they engineered without RbAp48 had the memory and navigational problems concurrent with those 4 times older than themselves. They had reversed the experiment to see if the opposite effect would happen with the mice. Engineering the mice to have double the “miracle gene,” the mice’s memory returned in full force.
Its still unclear how RbAp48 is going to be utilized to help prevent or even reverse age-related memory lapse. While there is cell damage and death when Alzheimer’s is present, no significant cell death has been detected in memory loss when it is age related. Researchers are setting out to investigate what dietary and social keys can play a role in increasing RbAp48 in their study mice. Columbia’s Dr. Scott Small is the co-senior author of the study and says that RbAp48 is different than Alzheimer’s as they’ve created the memory loss in mice as it is relevant in human aging and the memory loss incorporated with aging. Dr. Eric Kandel, also an associate at Columbia, says, “With RbAp48, we are able to reverse age-related memory loss in mice. Unlike in Alzheimer’s, there is no significant cell death in age-related memory loss, which gives us hope it can be prevented or reversed.”
So if your frequently forgetting where your glasses are or even where your car is when you walk out of the supermarket, simple aging may be the diagnosis. In the future scientists hope to have a cure for the common memory flub, so hold tight. If you are worried about Alzheimer’s, consulting your physician is never a wrong choice.
By: Jodi Phillips