Researchers identify compound Ampakin that helps reverse aging process in brain cells of mice

By @vitthernandez on
112th Birthday
Rosa Rein, born on March 24, 1897, celebrates her 112th birthday at a home for the elderly in Lugano's Paradiso district in this March 24, 2008 file photo. Reuters/Fiorenzo Maffi

In a bid to find ways to extend the life of humans, scientists found that the aging processes in brain cells, believed to be responsible for cognitive decline, could be reversed. The discovery could lead to confirmation that fibres which receive neural responses could be regenerated.

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The compound ampakine was found in previous rat studies capable of improving cognitive deficits due to aging. It could improve production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a key growth factor.

The decline of the dendrites, which begins in middle age, is called dendritic retraction. Dendrites are fibres that look like branches which extend from neurons and get signals from other neurons. To pinpoint the time frame when does dendritic retraction takes place, researchers from the University of California-Irvine placed 10-month-old male mice with enriched environments and provided it a lot of space where the lab animal could run, reports Medicalnewstoday.

The rats also received daily for three months oral ampakine or placebo. After three months, the scientists studied the hippocampi of the mice, which is the brain area associated with memory and learning. They then compared the results of the adolescent rats aged 2.5 months with middle-aged mice in the placebo group. The finding was that the middle-aged rats had shorter dendrites and few branches compared to the younger mice.

The proof of the effects of aging in the brain effectively reversed was the treated rats developed strategies to explore and had better memory of their environment, says Gary Lynch, co-author of the study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

“There is a tendency to think that aging is an inexorable process, that is something in the genes, and there is nothing you can do about it. The paper is saying that may not be true,” points out Lynch.

In another study on aging made by Mayo Clinic researchers, the focus was on senescent cells which lack the ability to divide properly and no longer contribute to the growth of healthy tissue, and the cells polluting the body by damaging nearby healthy cells. It results in chronic inflammation linked to frailty and other ailments that are age-related.

The team, led by Jan van Deursen, chair of Mayo Clinic’s Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, created a mouse model where the senescent cells were flushed out using the drug AP20187. The treatment cleared out 60 to 70 percent of the senescent cells in middle-aged rats. The treatment extended the life of a mice, normally 12 months, by 25 to 35 percent, reports Gizmodo.

Deursen and Darren Baker, a co-author of the study published in Nature journal, licensed patents in a company that Deursen co-founded to develop drugs that would flush out the senescent cells. Although the results on mice would not be the same on humans, more than extending life, the drug could help stop age-related ailments and extend the healthy part of life lived normally and not confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed.