Researchers at MIT in Boston have published findings in the journal Nature stating they have uncovered a gene that could play an important role in increasing your memory and boosting your brainpower. It is the same gene that is said to increase life span. According to the research team, this could provide leads for the development of drugs to fight Alzheimer’s and other debilitating neurological diseases.

The gene, called SIRT1, has been shown in laboratories to produce a protein that has been able to slow down aging in mice. In humans the same enzyme have been found to enhance memory and strengthen the development of nerve cells.

Team leader Li-Huei Tsai, director of the neurobiology program at MIT, had shown in earlier studies that the Sirtuin1 protein boosts the survival of mice that have been genetically changed to imitate certain degenerative brain disorders.Â

“We have now found that SIRT1 activity also promotes memory and plasticity,” Tsai said, referring to the ability of healthy brain cells to interconnect,” she said. “This result demonstrates a multi-faceted role of SIRT1 in the brain, further highlighting its potential as a target for the treatment of conditions with impaired cognition.”

The study examined the brain development and behavior of mice that lacked the SIRT1 gene. When compared to normal mice the ones deficient in the gene reacted slowly to electrical stimulation in the hippocampus – a critical are for long-term memory and spatial navigation. In those who have Alzheimer’s the hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to show damage.

The mutant mice also showed signs of lower density in the development of neurons, which is a key indicator to brain activity. In addition, they had trouble discriminating between old and new objects shown to them in memory tests. “SIRT1 deficient mice are impaired in all three memory paradigms compared to control mice,” Tsai explained.

Another finding, unknown until now, was that by restraining certain gene regulators, called mircoRNAs, the SIRT1 gene allowed the memory-boosting proteins to be ejected.

Tsai warned that the results are only preliminary, and it is too early to begin human trials, but she is optimistic, and believes the study opens ground for the possibility that Sirtuin1 enzymes could be used to “turbocharge” memory and brain function – even in healthy people. “Activation of sirtuins can be mildly beneficial in humans,” she said.

Other recent research suggests that the SIRT1 gene, and the enzymes it produces, could be part of a feedback system that increases cell survival during when the body is under stress, especially when food and nourishment is lacking.

This research is encouraging in the fight to find a treatment, and cure, for Alzheimer’s disease, and also indicates that it can help in the boosting of memory. I look forward to hearing more about this and passing it on.





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