Halting Memory Loss By Blocking One Protein

Photograph: Daisy-Daisy /Alamy

Photograph: Daisy-Daisy /Alamy

Dementia and memory loss are a key aspect of aging, but recent work published in Nature Medicine has highlighted a particular protein, beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), which builds up in the blood with age and appears to have a negative affect on neurogenesis - impairing memory. Injecting this protein into young mice's blood produced memory problems and reduced new neuronal growth, whilst blocking it enhanced memory in aged mice. 

Aging is a large, multi-faceted process and the blood is a molecular highway, transporting factors and signals throughout the body. In some cases this means that as one part of the body begins to fail or displays aged behaviour, this can have a domino effect on other systems. Just as old cells display youthful activity when placed in a 'youthful' environment, injecting young blood plasma into older mice has recently been shown to have multiple positive effects. It may be that by studying the make-up of old versus young blood, certain molecules can be uncovered which either help maintain healthy activity or worsen it - opening up targets for blocking or up-regulation.

“I think there are two ways we can improve or reverse the hallmarks of ageing,” said Saul Villeda, the lead author on the study at the University of California, San Francisco. “One of them is to administer pro-youthful factors, but the other is to target these pro-ageing factors.”

Read more at The Guardian