Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia but the changes in brain cell function underlying memory loss remains poorly understood.
The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s disease.
The decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study from the University of Bristol, scientists found that calcium channel blockers may be effective in treating memory loss.
In the study, the researchers used fruit flies to study AD, using a fluorescent molecule called GCaMP6f, which reports the amount of calcium ions inside brain cells.
They found that diseased brain cells become overloaded with calcium ions, which at normal levels are important for memory formation.
This overload was due to the overproduction of the gene encoding a channel, known as the L-type channel, which allows calcium ions to flow into the cell from outside.
More of these channels means more calcium ions are able to flow into the cell, disrupting memory formation.
Using a drug to block the L-type channel reversed the effect of the disease and reduced the flow of calcium ions to a normal level.
The research team also examined the memory of fruit flies by testing if they could remember which of two odors had previously been paired with an electric shock—similar to Pavlov’s experiments with dogs.
This shows that memory loss is likely due to calcium overload because too many L-type channels are made and, if this is corrected, memory impairment is rescued.
The team says memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a highly distressing and difficult-to-treat symptom.
Targeting the early changes in brain cell function—before they begin to degenerate—may be effective in treating memory loss.
The team says in humans suffering from AD, blocking these channels may be beneficial in treating memory impairment.
The findings show that further work should be carried out to determine the mechanism underlying the recovery of memory and whether or not the team’s research will prove effective in humans.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease, and new non-drug treatment could help prevent Alzheimer’s.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may help prevent Alzheimer’s, and results showing high omega-3 DHA level linked to 49% lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
The study was conducted by Dr. James Hodge et al and published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.
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