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Gene discovery raises hope of treatment for memory loss

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  • Gene discovery raises hope of treatment for memory loss

    A memory-enhancing pill capable of boosting people's ability to learn and remember is a step closer following the discovery of a gene in the brain that plays a crucial role in memory formation.

    By tweaking the action of the gene in mice, researchers were able to alter the speed with which they learned to perform different tasks, suggesting it might be possible to develop drugs to improve memory.

    The finding paves the way for unprecedented treatments for people suffering from memory loss and dementia, but similar drugs might also improve the memory performance of healthy people.

    Scientists at McGill University in Montreal studied an unusual gene that normally produces a protein that stops memories from forming.

    During the tests, they found that mice carrying a defective version of the gene performed better than others when trained to swim to a hidden platform in a water tank.

    "If a person were reading a page of a textbook, it might take several times to memorise it," said Mauro Costa-Mattioli, a researcher on the team. "A human equivalent of these mice would get the information right away."

    When the mice were given a substance that enhanced the effect of the gene, they gradually showed signs of memory impairment.

    The scientists now hope to follow up their discovery by finding a drug that improves memory by interfering with the memory-blocking protein.

    "If such a pill could be generated, it might provide a new method for treating people with memory-related disease such as Alzheimer's," said Dr Costa-Mattioli, whose study appears in the journal Cell.

    "While a drug that worked in this way wouldn't cure the disease itself, it might rescue the symptoms of memory loss."

    Memories are formed when brain cells are activated enough times to strengthen the connections between neighbouring neurons. Mild training regimes cause only temporary strengthening of neural connections, leading to short-term memories lasting for minutes to hours.

    But intense, repeated training activates mechanisms in the brain which stabilise nerve connections, which become long-term memories lasting days, weeks or years.

    In the experiments, mice were trained to remember the location of a platform slightly submerged in the water. After several days of training, the mice carrying the memory-boosting version of the gene were able to find the platform much quicker than normal mice.

    The mice were later tested for their response to fear, by checking how well they associated a sound played at the same time as a mild shock, which they had been given 24 hours beforehand.

    Again, the mice with the memory-enhancing gene reacted more quickly to the sound.


  • #2
    this is a good article. I"ve herd about his pill. but you know, the best way to prevent memory loss needn't come from a pill- eating more fruits and vegetables (than them fatty fried fast foods) and exercising regularly (physically and mentally) right at a young age would decrease your risks of getting Alzheimer’s disease by many folds. preventative medicine sometimes is the best medicine.

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