British scientists have successfully restored the memory of elderly mice by introducing viruses into their bodies that restore the neuroplasticity of the brain. This discovery could be the first step in the development of treatments for age-related memory loss.
So far, the method has been tested on mice, but scientists are confident that it will be effective in tests on humans.
The brain's ability to learn, adapt, and create memories is influenced by the perineuronal networks. These are the cartilaginous structures that control the level of plasticity in the brain. The networks contain compounds known as chondroitin sulfates. Some of them contribute to neuroplasticity, while others suppress it. As we age, the balance of these compounds changes, so our ability to learn and form new memories decreases. Because of this, memory becomes worse with age.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Leeds (UK) decided to find out if changes in the composition of chondroitin sulfates in the perineuronal networks can restore neuroplasticity and affect age-related memory loss.
To do this, the team examined one and a half year old mice - at this age they are considered elderly. They had a marked memory impairment compared to young six-month-old mice.
Scientists injected elderly animals with a virus that restores the amount of chondroitin sulfates that increase neuroplasticity. Subsequent tests showed that this completely restored their memory to the level of young mice.
Researchers are now investigating whether this technique can alleviate memory loss in Alzheimer's.