Researchers Develop Possible Memory Loss Treatment, Could Help Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

The treatment restores a protein responsible for the storage of associative memories

Researchers Develop Possible Memory Loss Treatment, Could Help Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients
Image: Pixabay
February 2, 2017

Millions of people around the world suffer from memory loss. Some have even been diagnosed with related diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia. In spite of the amount of research that has been conducted in the past, scientists still strive to find new explanations to explain what causes memory loss.

A new explanation has been put forward by Dr. Carlos Saura at Barcelona's Institut de Neurociéncies. Dr. Saura believes that the key factor in the broader condition of memory loss is the loss of associative memory. He has tracked this loss back to a molecular mechanism in the brain's hippocampus region.

Dr. Saura believes that a particular brain protein known as CRTC1 is disrupted in the brains of people suffering from neurodegenerative disorders. This disruption is important, says Dr. Saura, because this protein is responsible for regulation the function of neurons that let associative memories be stored. Therefore, restoring function in this protein may reverse memory loss.

"The relevance of this discovery is that activation of specific neurons of the hippocampus reverses memory loss even at late stages of neurodegeneration," he said.

Associative memory plays an important role in remembering a great deal of the information that our brains process, involving remembering people, situations, and places in the long term. It has been shown by previous research to be one of the first cognitive abilities that declines in people who develop Alzheimer's, dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Dr. Saura used an approach involving gene therapy with mice models that showed symptoms of neurodegeneration. The scientists inserted copies of the CRTC1 protein into the hippocampus of the models' brains and then observed whether or not the mice were able to remember a negative experience.

The mice who received this therapy treatment were able to remember the experience and changed how they behaved in order to avoid it, while those were did not receive the treatment behaved normally.

The findings provide hope for potential therapeutic approaches in future memory loss treatments.

"These results are exciting since provide strong support for potential translational applications in the clinic because this molecular mechanism could be a new target to reverse memory decline in dementia," Saura said.