Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Could a Drug Prevent Brain Aging?

An MRI scan reveals the gross anatomical structure of the human brain.

Sharply reducing calorie intake, by as much as 40 percent, could slow aging in cells and may even prolong life span, studies have suggested. Now, researchers say they have found a way to mimic the beneficial effects of calorie restriction on the brain with a drug.

The pill activates an enzyme in brain cells, and the study showed the drug delayed both the cognitive impairment associated with aging and Alzheimer's disease, and the loss of nerve cells that happens with aging.

The new study was done in mice, but it suggests scientists could develop drugs that stave off decline in human brain function. 

"There are clear implications for human health," said Coleen Murphy, a professor at Princeton University who studies aging, but was not involved in the new study.

Most previous research on calorie restriction has been done in mice and other organisms used for laboratory research, but studies in humans have shown calorie restriction can boost memory in the elderly.

In the new study, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  focused on how calorie restriction affects brain cells. They showed that restricting the calorie intake of laboratory mice by 30 percent boosted levels of an enzyme in the brain, and delayed the loss of nerve cells that can accompany decline in brain function.

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