Neural Stem Cells May Recharge Memory Lost to Alzheimer’s

July 23, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A team of researchers from UC Irvine completed a breakthrough study using neural stem cells to restore memory in mice afflicted with Alzheimer’s. This is the first time that scientists were successful in using neural stem cells to treat memory loss from dementia.

The researchers injected the neural stem cells directly into the diseased brains of mice, which fired up the synapses and connections between neurons that were weakened by the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that the neural stem cells didn’t recharge memory by growing into healthy brain neurons, but instead secreted a protein that acted to strengthen the cerebral connections between neurons. The protein is called, neurotrophic factor or BDNF, which worked to encourage growth of brain neurites that helped strengthen the neuron connections.

When the neurotrophic factor was removed from the stem cells, the benefit was lost. When the researchers injected the protein directly into the mice brains, improvement was found, but not as much as the stem cell treatment. The neural stem cells offered a consistent supply of the protein, providing a better result.

Frank LaFerla, director of UCI’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, referred to the process as, “…producing fertilizer for the brain.”

This groundbreaking study shows that the brain lesions, plaques and tangles found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are not the primary cause of memory loss and dementia. Rather it’s the breakdown in brain synapses.

Alzheimer’s and the resulting dementia afflicts 5.3 million people in the U.S. This study offers hope for a potential treatment of the devastating disease.



One Response to “Neural Stem Cells May Recharge Memory Lost to Alzheimer’s”

  1. Kylie@icarastudy on July 23rd, 2009 2:17 pm

    Clinical studies that test potential new treatments are the best chance we have for fighting Alzheimer’s Disease. Current therapies treat the symptoms associated with it, not the disease itself. The goal of the ICARA Study is to explore if an investigational drug, called bapineuzumab, can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. It is important for patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s to consider participating in clinical studies. Patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s can visit to see if they’re eligible to enroll.

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