U.S. researchers say they may have found a protein that plays a major role in normal, age-related memory loss – and the condition could one day be treated with drugs.
The Columbia University scientists, who examined the brains of mice and dead humans, found that a protein called RbAp48 was more prevalent in young subjects. The older the brain, the less RbAp48 the team found in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory centre. What’s more, if a mechanism was used to boost the RbAp48 protein levels in older mice, they performed just as well at memory tests as the youngsters, the team reported this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
It’s a big leap from mice to humans, but there’s hope this research can eventually help aging people recall where they left their keys. Study author Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winner in 2000 for his work on memory, says his team is already looking for drugs that might turn this protein’s production back on in older people: “We have treatments in mice that work extremely well, and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work in people if we work hard enough at it.”
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