Mice with brain damage recovered lost memories after scientists “turned off” a gene known to cause symptoms similar to those found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD destroys the brain’s nerve cells and leads to loss of memory and the ability to learn.
Scientists used this gene, derived from human DNA, to induce brain damage and premature aging in mice. When scientists turned this gene off, 70% of the mice regained memories on how to exit an underwater maze. The study was conducted at the University of Minnesota.
Although the study did not involve AD directly, the gene used caused a type of brain damage similar to damage believed to be a marker for AD. The markers or proteins, called tangles, were present in the rodents’ brains but did not decrease when memory was recovered.
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The investigators were surprised at this finding; they were also surprised to learn that the mice recovered memories from parts of the brain that had been damaged before the gene was turned off.
Bill Thies, vice president of medical and science affairs for the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, said that even though human brains might not react the same way, the study should inspire pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments.