Scientists: We've Found a Protein that Guards Memory


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A report posted last week via Healthday News on WebMD should sound reassuring to all the baby boomers out there (and everyone else, for that matter): age-related memory loss has been linked to a single protein, and replenishing that protein could reduce moments of forgetfulness.

A team of researchers from Columbia University found that the protein RbAp48, which is present in the hippocampus, becomes deficient in our brains as we age. The loss of this protein appears to be contributing to memory loss. The study was published in the online journal Science Translational Magazine.

One of the study's authors, Dr. Scott Small, said that the findings should relieve people, as they indicate that "senior moments" are bad indicators of one's tendency for dementia, and that the new study "provides compelling evidence that age-related memory loss is a syndrome in its own right, apart from Alzheimer's." Small is also director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia.

The study involved the analysis of eight deceased brains from people of a variety of ages (33-88), of whom the common denominator was they died absent brain disease. The levels of RbAp48 were found to slowly decrease as all humans aged.

In order to confirm their findings, the researchers examined the brains of mice, and discovered that mouse brains also see a decrease in RbAp48 levels, and that when younger mice had their levels artificially reduced, they were just as forgetful as old ones. When the RbAp48 levels returned to normal, the young mice's memory was also restored. The test was also performed on older mice, who performed just as well as the younger mice when their RbAp48 levels were artificially increased.

Dr. Nupur Ghoshal, who assistant-teaches neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that "This is really the first evidence of a molecule someone can focus in on. Now we have a pathway we can learn a lot more about, and somewhere within that pathway may be a target for intervention."

[Image via a Stanford University Youtube about memory formation]