Researchers may have found a way to slow down or prevent memory problems that arise in old age and which can become devastating in patients with dementia.
The fresh hope comes from a series of studies in humans and mice that identified a protein which causes memory impairment when it builds up in the blood and brain with age.
Scientists found that injections of the protein made young animals’ memories worse and reduced the growth of new neurons in their brains. Further studies showed that blocking the protein prevented memory loss in older animals, making them smarter than untreated animals of the same age.
The findings are the latest to come from researchers in the US who have shown in previous work that blood plasma taken from young animals can rejuvenate the muscles, brains and other tissues of older animals.
Those studies have led scientists to suspect that blood plasma contains a cocktail of factors that either drive or counteract the natural ageing process. Major efforts are now underway to identify the different components at work in the hope of turning them into a therapy. A human trial to test the effects of young plasma on Alzheimer’s patients is already underway.
If scientists can work out which substances in blood affect the ageing process, and prove that they work in humans, they could potentially create a mixture that slows down the ageing process, at least partially. The therapy might not make people live longer, but it could keep them healthy for longer, by staving off conditions of old age, such as dementia.
“I think there are two ways we can improve or reverse the hallmarks of ageing,” said Saul Villeda, the lead author on the study at the University of California, San Francisco. “One of them is to administer pro-youthful factors, but the other is to target these pro-ageing factors.”
The Latest on: Human ageing process
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The Latest on: Human ageing process
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