[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 3, October 2011].
The Daily Express has reported that German researchers have discovered how to block the effect of a molecule in the brain, namely “miR-34c”, which appears to be involved in impaired learning and memory. Blocking the action of miR-34c improves learning in mice genetically modified to have an Alzheimer’s-like brain condition. It has the same benefit for (otherwise normal) old mice showing age-related memory problems.
The researchers conclude that miR-34c is a marker for the onset of cognitive disturbances linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and propose targeting miR-34c as a potential therapy.
Note: Blocking the action of miR-34c does not restore specific lost memories, but it does seem to assist in restoring the ability to learn (and thereby developing new memories).
Analysis of brain samples from people with Alzheimer’s Disease, when compared with those from healthy elderly people, does apparently confirm that persons with Alzheimer’s do have increased levels of miR-34c in the hippocampus (an area of the brain involved in memory). The hippocampus is widely understood to be one of the regions of the brain to be affected first in age-related memory impairment and dementia.
Caution: The results from animal studies do not always translate to humans. Alzheimer’s Disease is a complex disease, for which mouse models are not a perfect replica. It is not yet clear whether the approach tested in this study would be effective or safe if applied to humans. More research is needed into this promising area.
Early days for ‘memory restoring’ molecule. London: NHS Choices, September 26th 2011.
Full Text Link (b) (Access requires a password or journal subscription).
Zovoilis, A. Agbemenyah, HY. [and] Agis-Balboa, RC. [et al] (2011). microRNA-34c is a novel target to treat dementias. The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Journal, September 23rd 2011.