Medical advancements have allowed many people to live much longer, but it is difficult to protect the brain in old age. Even if a senior is physically healthy, they may suffer from dementia that prevents them from thinking logically, remembering important events, or taking care of themselves. A lot of anti-aging research has focused on ways of preventing or treating forms of dementia. New research from Rutgers University provides hope for treating memory problems more successfully in the future, and improving the lives of those affected by dementia.
Scientists Discover Potential Method of Dementia Treatment
Dementia is a little understood disease that tends to happen with age. It can be a symptom of another issue like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, but some seniors just develop dementia without any other related conditions. It happens any time the brain starts to undergo physical changes that result in a decline in mental abilities.
A team of researchers from the Department of Genetics at Rutgers University decided to conduct a study that attempted to find the reason behind this seemingly spontaneous mental and memory decline. They used mice as test subjects because mice have brains similar to humans and age quickly enough to simulate the effects of dementia.
The researchers ended up examining the function of the CRTC1 protein in the areas of the brain that control memory. CRTC1 protein is a type of protein that controls gene expression, so it is responsible for activating and deactivating the FGF1 gene used to repair damaged brain cells and grow new cells. The scientists discovered “the longer the CRTC1 stays in the mouse brain, the stronger the memory.”
They used both fear conditioning and object location learning to train the mice’s memory, and then the researchers looked at protein level in the subject’s brains. The mice who were trained for a longer period of time had more CRTC1 activity in their brains, and they also were better able to retain the memory.
This study’s findings are confirmed by other research which shows regularly training the brain with puzzles or other cognitive tasks helps to prevent memory loss with old age. More importantly, it looks at the underlying molecular mechanism that causes this effect to occur. The study will be particularly useful to those looking for dementia cures because it shows which genes and proteins specifically affect memory retention in old age.
Results from the study have mapped the precise steps that result in CRTC1 affecting memory. It goes from brain synapses to cellular nuclei after doing memory associated tasks, and it then regulates FGF1b transcription. Now that this mechanism is better understood on a molecular level, it may be easier to create medications that target the activation of genes and proteins to stimulate memory.
The next goal in dementia treatment will be to confirm that the study findings are replicated in human patients. After that, scientists can start making medications that better stimulate memory through the proteins and genes of the human brain. Gleb Shumyatsky co-author of the study, expresses hope that “This work may provide scientists with answers and therapeutic help in the future for those going through normal aging or suffering from dementia.”
Next Steps for Dementia Researchers
Now that researchers realize the mechanisms behind age related memory loss, they may be able to create drugs to treat Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Their next goals will be to find ways to promote CRTC1 protein production without causing other health issues. The scientists probably will not be able to create a dementia cure immediately, but their research may eventually lead to a successful treatment for this serious health issue.
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