An experiment carried out on mice has opened a new avenue of research in the fight against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This is a study carried out by a group of scientists in Europe and the United States who have managed to revive memory in mice, and have reported the results in the journal Nature. As they explain, the answer may lie in a simple protein.

Alzheimer’s, a long way to go.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects millions of older people and about which little is known considering the attention it has received from the scientific community. One of its most distinctive features is that it wreaks havoc on patients’ memories. Therefore, this study offers important hope.

The team of researchers managed to improve memory in older mice (20 month old mice) after injecting them with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) taken from younger mice (10 weeks old). They verified that the mice that had received the transfusion responded better to the proposed stimuli.

CSF, a key fluid for the brain and its development.
CSF, also called cerebrospinal fluid, is the fluid in which the brain is “submerged.” It is the main one in charge (along with the blood) of providing the nutrients it requires. It also influences its development and growth, although its role in the aging of the organ is not clear.

Precisely because it is related to development, the composition of CSF changes with age. Certain proteins related to this growth and development disappear and are replaced by other molecules that make up the liquid.

All thanks to a simple protein.
After verifying the effect of CSF in aged brains, the team tried to find out which component was responsible, finding the protein Fgf17 (for Fibroblast Growth Factor 17). They found not only that the protein had a positive effect on brain activation in older mice, but that its blockade was also detrimental in young mice.

The Fcf17 protein is one of the 23 known molecules that make up the family of fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). These are complex molecules involved, among other functions, in the normal development of animal cells.

Promising results, like so many others.
Although the results are encouraging, the experts suggest caution, since it is common for discoveries about Alzheimer’s in mice to fail to be transferred to humans, as explains to the newspaper El País the researcher Jesús Ávila. For now there are many open avenues, but we still have no remedy for this disease.

Image | Vlad Sargo

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