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New Brain Cells Reverse Memory Loss in Mice

Jul 19, 2014 03:11 PM EDT

By transplanting new brain cells into mice suffering from Alzheimer's disease, a new study has found that the technique can help reverse memory loss.

This method, developed by scientists from the Gladstone Institutes, can alleviate learning and memory deficits caused by apoE4, the most important genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. It is carried by 25 percent of the population and involved in 60 to 75 percent of all Alzheimer's cases.

Inhibitory neuron progenitors - early-stage brain cells that have the capacity to develop into mature inhibitory neurons - were transplanted into two mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. The mice either had apoE4 or apoE4 with accumulation of amyloid beta, another major contributor to Alzheimer's.

Using these new brain cells, the researchers were able to replace cells lost due to apoE4, regulating brain activity and improving learning and memory abilities.

"This is the first time transplantation of inhibitory neuron progenitors has been used in aged Alzheimer's disease models," first author Leslie Tong, a graduate student at the Gladstone Institutes and UCSF, said in a statement. "Working with older animals can be challenging from a technical standpoint, and it was amazing to see that the cells not only survived but affected activity and behavior."

These findings are particularly important, researchers say, because its success in older mice corresponds to late adulthood in humans - the target age should this treatment be used on people in the future.

"This is a very important proof of concept study," added lead author Yadong Huang. "The fact that we see a functional integration of these cells into the hippocampal circuitry and a complete rescue of learning and memory deficits in an aged model of Alzheimer's disease is very exciting."

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at UC San Francisco and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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