Neuroscientists have developed a special protein that improves memory. This will help create a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Roman biologists performed a very elegant experiment. They figured out how to turn on and off the enzyme LIM kinase 1. It plays a key role in the functioning of synapses during learning and memory. The scientists’ breakthrough research was published in the famous scientific journal Science Advances.
Memory under a microscope
It should be clarified that scientists have long understood the work of memory not ephemerally, but concretely. To remember, in their opinion, this means quickly forming new contacts between neurons, which are carried out through synapses. These are structures through which excitation from one nerve cell is transmitted to another. Visually, it literally looks like this: on the branches of neurons (they are called dendrites – editor’s note), dendritic spines (outgrowths) are formed, they begin to contact with other nerve cells, forming synapses at the point of contact. All this is called synaptic plasticity, and the higher it is, the better the memory.
These processes are well studied using electron microscopy, which allows us to see the structures of neurons in detail. So memory is no longer a secret. And neurons of the old organism, which have very low synaptic plasticity and hardly form dendritic spines, can be determined using such microscopy.
The main thing is to find a good switch
What did the scientists do? They took old rats with already poor memory and low synaptic plasticity, and then, using genetic manipulation, attached 1 switch to their LIM kinase enzyme. Rapamycin “pressed” him – this is an antibiotic that has geroprotector properties (this is what drugs that prolong life are called – editor’s note).
When rats were injected with rapamycin, it turned on the enzyme LIM kinase 1 for several hours, the formation of dendritic spines began to occur very actively and their memory improved. When the effect of the drug ended, the memory returned “to normal.”
The study paves the way for the development of new drugs to treat brain diseases associated with memory loss.
“The next step will be to test the effectiveness of this approach in experimental models of neurodegenerative diseases manifested by memory loss, for example, Alzheimer’s disease,” says the lead author of the study about future plans Professor Claudio Grassi. “Further studies will also be required to confirm the use of this technology in humans.”
The road to a specific medicine is still long, but the path is clear, and the prospects are extremely positive.