Enhancing Neurons to Fight Alzheimer’s

Imaging of neuron cellsIn adult human brains, the hippocampus generates new neurons (adult-born neurons, or ABNs) throughout life, helping us maintain memories and regulate emotions. Scientists call this process “adult hippocampus neurogenesis.” In people with Alzheimer’s disease, this process is impaired, leading to reduced production of ABNs with poorer qualities.

Given that Alzheimer’s patients often develop both cognitive symptoms (such as memory loss) and non-cognitive symptoms (such as anxiety and depression) for which new neuron generation plays a critical role, one way to help Alzheimer’s patients achieve symptom relief could be to restore this function.

Published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, research from UNC School of Medicine scientists demonstrated that stimulating a brain region called the supramammillary nucleus effectively enhanced adult-born neurons in the otherwise impaired Alzheimer’s brains of mice.

After patterned stimulation of the supramammillary nucleus, Alzheimer’s brains developed more ABNs with improved qualities. Importantly, activation of these ABNs restored both cognitive and affective deficits in the mouse models.

“Ultimately, the hope is to develop first-in-class, highly targeted therapies to treat AD and related dementia,” said senior author Juan Song, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and Jeffrey Houpt Distinguished Investigator at the UNC School of Medicine.

Read more about the discovery and its implications…

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