Until now, it was believed that Alzheimer’s disease could destroy the memories, but a new study reveals that it actually blocks them.
Scientists at the Columbia University have discovered that memories of mice with Alzheimer’s disease can be recovered optogenetically (with the use of light). This can be a very important discovery for future patients, because it can easily enhance our understanding of the disease.
In the course of the study, the healthy mice are compared with their disease-stricken peers, given that a disease in animals is similar to those in humans, such as Alzheimer’s. Parts of the mice’s brains were engineered to glow yellow during memory storage and red during memory recall. After associating the two memories, the mice were exposed to the smell of lemon, followed by an electric shock.
A week later, they are given the lemon again. The results are as follows:
The healthy mice’s red and yellow glows overlapped and they expressed fear, demonstrating that they were accessing the right memories. The brains of the mice stricken with Alzheimer’s glowed in different areas, showing that they were recalling from the wrong sections of the brain.
Christine A. Denny, the team leader, used a fiber optic cable to create a blue laser, which could illuminate the mice’s brain. However, this successfully reactivated the lemon and electric shock memory and caused the mice to freeze when they smelled it.
“This could help 5 million Americans who are suffering from the disease.
It has the potential to lead to novel drug development to help with regaining memories.” – Ralph Martins at Edith Cowan University in Australia.
Humans lose more neurons than mice in the course of the disease, and it would be very difficult to target specific memories. Our brains are far more complicated.
Further studies must be conducted, because these findings are important on the way to achieving the cure for Alzheimer’s disease.