Grants enable neuroprotective drug research

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Brain

Researchers believe that new treatments or ways to diagnose memory
problems will get a boost from a substantial grant that aims to
create a brain-scanning method to test drug treatments, which
investigates how brain cells age, and to develop neuroprotective

Results from this research could mean new drugs to target specific cells in the brains of those suffering from age-related memory loss. Traditional thought holds that when older people lose the ability to bank new memories, it may be because of deterioration in the brain's temporal lobe.

The three scientists are to receive $125,000 (€107 000) each, awarded by the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute.

"This initiative called for innovative and high-payoff ideas to solve age-related memory loss,"​ said Dennis Steindler, MBI executive director.

"We wanted out-of-the-box, state-of-the-art approaches, rooted in cellular, genetic, molecular and behavioral neuroscience,"​ he added.

One of the awardees, David Loring, a neurology professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Florida, wants to test the effectiveness of memory-loss therapies by applying a new statistical technique to a standard brain-scanning method called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

Loring believes it is possible that some older people actually lack the attention span to log new information into their memory, which places the problem in the prefrontal cortex - the brain's attention centre - not the temporal lobe.

One avenue that the researchers have taken focuses on the sea slug Aplysia californica. This ocean creature has the largest neurons in the animal kingdom, creating a simple memory-forming network that is easily studied.

Analysing the biochemical products that result when the genes of Aplysia neurons express themselves may reveal markers for human memory function and provide information regarding a neuron's "life span."

Another recipient of the institute's grants include Luesch, a medicinal chemist, who is seeking to identify proteins that can be modulated by drugs to activate protective genes to prevent neurological age-related disorders.

Luesch aims to screen genomewide libraries of DNA to find genes that regulate the synthesis of neuroprotective enzymes - proteins that cause or speed up chemical reactions.

"The grants allow us to advance the science being done in this institute through collaborations with investigators around the world,"​ Steindler said.

"It's important work. As we age, our memory is at risk. If we can devise novel interventions or enhance memory capabilities during the aging process, all of us will benefit."

Related topics Preclinical Research

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