Alzheimer’s memory loss was restored in mice after scientists at the University of Illinois-Chicago increased the formation of new brain cells, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatments. Their gene therapy fueled new neurons in the hippocampus—a region in the brain vital for learning and remembering where you put your car keys. Experiments have shown that this growth process is impaired—particularly in the hippocampus—in patients and mice with mutations linked to Alzheimer’s.
The team found that the increased production of neurons transformed the lab rodent’s defects, as the new neurons were incorporated into memory circuits, restoring normal function. Brain cells send electric signals; we keep producing them throughout our lives with the help of our neural stem cells. But numbers fall off as we age and dramatically decrease in Alzheimer’s.
“This is the first time that there is evidence that neurogenesis plays an active role in Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” said lead author Professor Orly Lazarov. “Our discovery opens up a huge opportunity for new therapies to develop in the field based on the enhancement of neurogenesis.”