Protein saves memory

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Special protein is retained in the memory

Scientists from Heidelberg University have found that aging of the brain and the associated impairment of memory are associated with a decrease in the expression of the protein “Dnmt3a2” in the hippocampus. The scientists have also succeeded in stopping or even reversing this process. In animal experiments, they were able to restore the memory of old mice with the help of "Dnmt3a2".

An artificial supply of the protein “Dnmt3a2” was able to restore mental performance in experiments in mice, reports the research team led by Hilmar Bading from the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences at Heidelberg University in the journal “Nature Neuroscience”. However, it is doubtful whether the method can be applied to humans, not least because the protein was injected directly into the brain using a virus. However, this method seems too risky for human use.

Decrease in cognitive skills in old age It has long been known that "cognitive skills decrease with age, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood," the researchers at Heidelberg University write. In experiments with mice, the neurologist Hilmar Bading and colleagues now found "that aging was associated with a decrease in the expression of the DNA methyltransferase" Dnmt3a2 "in the hippocampus and that maintenance of the Dnmt3a2 level was associated with a restoration of cognitive functions." The administration of the protein significantly improved the memory of older mice and they were then able to remember certain situations as well as young animals, according to the researchers.

The spread of the protein leads to an improvement in memory. After Bading and colleagues had shown that the protein "Dnmt3a2" in the brain was significantly reduced in older mice and could therefore be a possible reason for impaired cognitive performance, they tested the effects of a change in the “Dnmt3a2” levels on the animals' memory. The older mice were injected with the protein directly into the brain using viruses. The researchers then checked the animals' memory by giving the mice a mild electric shock at certain locations and observing to what extent the animals remember this negative experience when they return to the same place after 24 hours. The mice with good memory showed clear signs of fear, they froze as soon as they came to the place of the electric shock again. After the administration of the protein, this behavior was also evident in the formerly forgetful, older animals, Bading and colleagues report. In other words, the mice had regained their memory. The connection between the protein "Dnmt3a2" and memory has also been confirmed in the opposite direction, the neurologists from Heidelberg University write in their article in the journal "Nature Neuroscience". If the protein in the brain of young animals was reduced, the researchers said that Memory performance massive.

Restoring memory performance in humans? Hilmar Bading explained that while the administration of the protein in mice has brought about remarkable increases in memory, it is unclear whether the results can be transferred to humans. In principle, this would be conceivable, according to the researchers, since "the basic biochemical functions in humans are probably very similar", however, the proof would still have to be provided, because "the human organism is a lot more complex." Making proteins a little more problematic in humans, since an injection into the brain with the help of viruses is likely to involve too many risks. (fp)

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Image: Dieter Schütz /

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