An amazing discovery, conducted by researchers at MIT and published in the journal Nature indicates a gene has been found that could increase memory and boost brain function.
According to the Boston researchers, this is the same gene that they believe can increase life span, and could provide leads that could help in the development of drugs to fight neurological diseases that affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s.
The gene, named SIRT1, has produced a protein in mice that has been able to slow down aging in mice. The same enzyme, when used on humans, has been found to strengthen the development of nerve cells and to enhance memory.
Li-Huei Tsai, leader of the team and director of the neurobiology program at MIT, had found that the Sirtuin1 protein has prolonged life in mice that had been genetically altered to duplicate the changes in certain degenerative brain disorders. “We have now found that SIRT1 activity also promotes memory and plasticity,” says Tsai. She was referring to the brains ability to produce new connections. “This result demonstrates a multi-faceted role of SIRT1 in the brain, further highlighting its potential as a target for the treatment of conditions with impaired cognition.”
Researchers examined the development of the brain and behaviors in mice that lacked the SIRT1 gene. They showed lower brain density in development of neurons — a key indicator of brain activity, and were unable to tell the difference between old and new objects they were shown in memory tests. They reacted slower to electrical stimulation in the hippocampus, when compared to normal mice. The hippocampus is essential for long-term and spatial navigation, and one of the first parts of the brain to show damage in patients who have developed Alzheimer’s. “SIRT1 deficient mice are impaired in all three memory paradigms compared to control mice,” Tsai explained. Another unknown until now offshoot of the research was that by stopping gene regulators known as microRNA the SIRT1 gene allows the memory-boosting proteins to be released.
Although indications are good that the SIRT1 enzyme could be used to turbo-boost memory, Tsai warned that the results are only preliminary. Other researchers suggest that SIRT1, and the enzymes it produces, could be part of a feedback system that increases cell survival when the body is under stress, especially when food and nourishment is lacking.
This research is encouraging in the fight to find a treatment, and cure, for Alzheimer’s disease, and also indicates that it can help in memory improvement. I look forward to hearing more about this and passing it on.
Discovery News — Longevity Gene May Boost Memory too: http://news.discovery.com/human/longevity-gene-memory.html