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Age-related memory loss and the protein that may reverse it

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memory brain scan (Columbia University)
memory brain scan (Columbia University)

Memories are just about the most precious piece of intangible property that we have — they contain a person's history, personality, and most deeply held beliefs — but there's an inevitable decline in our ability to retain them as we age. That's the problem being addressed by scientists at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), who have this week published their findings relating to the effects of a particular protein on age-related memory loss.

"The fact that we were able to reverse age-related memory loss in mice is very encouraging."

The protein in question, RbAp48, has been shown to restore the memory of aged mice to the level observed in young specimens. The study began by analysing postmortem human brain cells and was then extended to mice — the CUMC team also deprived healthy young mice of RbAp48 and saw their recall abilities degenerating. What they found was that, by genetically inhibiting or increasing the presence of that protein in the brain, the scientists are able to effectively regulate the memory of the mice.

This marks a clear delineation between age-related memory loss and Alzheimer's, while also offering an avenue of exploration for new therapeutic techniques. The leader of the CUMC research team, Nobel prize winner Eric Kandel, says "the fact that we were able to reverse age-related memory loss in mice is very encouraging," while his fellow senior author Scott Small affirms that "we’ve shown it to be relevant to human aging."