Published on: October 22, 2015
by Mike Wille for Fox5 San Diego:
Increasing a protein that binds cholesterol to membranes in nerve cells in the brain can improve learning and memory in elderly mice, which might lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s and similar disease in humans, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute reported Tuesday.
Researchers already knew that adding to levels of a protein called caveolin-1 was good for cholesterol involved in neuron growth and cell signaling, but the next step was to find out if it actually improved brain function or memory.
They said they delivered Cav-1 directly into the hippocampus region of the brain in older mice, which subsequently displayed improved neuron growth and better retrieval of contextual memories — such as being in a location and remembering what happened there in a previous visit.
“This is a novel strategy for treating neurodegenerative diseases, and it underscores the importance of brain cholesterol,” said Chitra Mandyam, associate professor at TSRI and co-first author of the study, which appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
“We’re very interested in studying whether we can manipulate Cav-1 in other areas of the brain,” Mandyam said.
Mandyam and Brian Head, a research scientist with the Department of Veterans Affairs and associate professor at UC San Diego, said they believe that this type of gene therapy may be a path toward treating age-related memory loss.
The researchers are now testing Cav-1 in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and expanding their studies to see if their discovery could help treat spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.
Cav-1 might also help with memory loss due to alcohol and drug use, Mandyam said.
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