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September 29, 2012
Forgetfulness, memory impairment, which very often develop into more serious dementia-like brain disorders are very common in today’s elderly. A great deal of aging people start demonstrating the first signs of Alzheimer’s even in their early 60s, and very often the condition progresses, with terrible prognosis and very poor life quality. Dementia-like brain disorders happen due to fatal changes in human brain. They can not be reversed and there is no effective cure known for Alzheimer’s and other dementia-like brain disorders. However, a number of researches is ongoing and aiming to find at least a little clue to diagnose the problem in its early stages and somehow slow down its development. According to the latest news, a group of scientists the University of Heidelberg in Germany have found a way to slow down and possibly reverse forgetfulness linked to aging.
It is reported that for the moment, the experiments in mice ended up with a great success. Prof. Hilman Bading, a specialist at Neurobiology Institute in Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN), Germany, together with his colleagues looked at performance of elderly mice before and after injecting a certain virus in the brain area of the animals known as hippocampus, or an area responsible for memory function. The virus was specially created by the scientists and contained increased amounts of a gene which can stimulate production of methyltransferase (Dnmt3a2), an enzyme that affects the genetic activities by a process known as methylation, or adding extra methyl chains to DNA. This way, the enzyme had direct effects on memory of the mice and could possibly lead the scientists to a clue related to memory impairment and Alzheimer’s symptoms treatment.
Before injecting the substance in the brain of the animals, the mice were given a number of memory tasks, mainly related to recognizing one of two objects, a new one and an old, familiar one. The more difficult task involved changing positions of old and new objects, making it harder for the mice to recognize the objects. It became apparent to the scientists that young mice could manage with the task very well. Elderly mice had obvious problems with recognizing the old ‘familiar’ objects, and they used to spend the same amount of time attempting to ‘recognize’ both new and old objects. In other words, both the new and the old objects sparked the same interest in elderly mice, and in most cases they could not manage to recognize which of the objects is new and which is the old one.
The tests were repeated after injecting the virus in the brain of elderly mice, and it turned out that the performance of the mice had significant improvements. They started demonstrating much better results when working on the task of investigating new objects, and in contrast to their previous performance, now they started spending up to 70 per cent of time next to the new object, making the scientists believe that the mice have learned recognizing the old object. In average performance of elderly mice, it is considered that they managed to match young mice in their success in object recognition. At the same time, when the amounts of Dnmt3a2 in young mice brain were decreased, the performance of young mice decreased almost down to the level of the elderly mice in the experiment.
These factors allowed scientists to come to the following conclusions: “Clearly, if you have too little of the enzyme, your memory works less well,” as Bading said. According to the expert, these findings can open new horizons in studying the problems of memory impairment and slowing down the signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementia like brain disorders, as well as assist in creating a new memory enhancing treatments. At the moment, there is no medication or technology to boost the levels of Dnmt3a2 enzyme in human brain, and it would be good to find out natural solutions to rise the levels of this enzyme in a natural way. Bading said that the only known way to increase concentrations of this enzyme is keeping our brain active, and this is the best advice to those aging people who want to prevent memory problems and dementia-like conditions.Author Info: Hi! My name is Carla and I am a 5th year medical student at HYMS. I am interested in alternative medicine and I have done months researching the topic of herbal medicine. Besides, I like interviewing people and learning more about their experiences with one or another type of herbal treatments. I am willing to contribute to this site with my knowledge, and I would be happy to help you out to the best of my ability with any specific questions or problems related to alternative medicine.