You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Red Sox Live

0

0

Game starts at 7:10 PM

Scientists find clue to age-related memory loss

WASHINGTON — Scientists have found a compelling clue in the quest to learn what causes age-related memory problems, and to one day be able to tell if those misplaced car keys are just a senior moment or an early warning of something worse.

Wednesday’s report offers evidence that age-related memory loss really is a distinct condition from pre-Alzheimer’s — and offers a hint that what we now consider the normal forgetfulness of old age might eventually be treatable.

Continue reading below

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center examined brains, young and old ones, donated from people who died without signs of neurologic disease. They discovered that a certain gene in a specific part of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, quits working properly in older people. It produces less of a key protein.

That section of the brain, called the dentate gyrus, has long been suspected of being especially vulnerable to aging. Importantly, it’s a different neural neighborhood than where Alzheimer’s begins to form.

But it’s circumstantial evidence that having less of that protein, named RbAp48, affects memory loss in older adults. So the researchers took a closer look at mice, which become forgetful as they age in much the same way that people do.

Sure enough, cutting levels of the protein made healthy young rodents lose their way in mazes and perform worse on other memory tasks just like old mice naturally do.

More intriguing, the memory loss was reversible: Boosting the protein made forgetful old mice as sharp as the youngsters again, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

‘‘It’s the best evidence so far’’ that age-related memory loss isn’t the same as early Alzheimer’s, said Nobel laureate Dr. Eric Kandel, who led the Columbia University team.

And since some people make it to 100 without showing much of a cognitive slowdown, the work raises another question: ‘‘Is that normal aging, or is it a deterioration that we’re allowing to occur?’’ Kandel said.

This is early-stage research that will require years of additional work to confirm, cautioned Dr. Molly Wagster of the National Institute on Aging, who wasn’t involved with the report.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.