Aging may bring along some wisdom but it can also bring less desirable consequences. Prof. Hilmar Bading and colleagues, from the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Heidelberg, found that as mice age, levels of a protein called Dnmt3a2 decrease and as a consequence there is a decrease in their cognitive abilities.
This protein works in the hippocampus, a region of the brain related to memory formation and storage, where it is in charge of a process called methylation, which determines if a gene is active or not. When researchers increased the levels of Dnmt3a2 in the brain of old mice, they found that their cognitive abilities improved. Conversely, when they decreased the levels of this protein in young mice, the mice demonstrated the same age-based afflictions as older mice. Their results were published online this week in Nature Neuroscience.
As the author explains, "Without this protein the gate is closed for storage of newly acquired information." And these findings give some hope for the future. "One could possibly interrupt this deteriorating process by developing drugs that would either restore the levels of this protein or enhance the biological activity of the remaining amounts of it."
"Rescue of aging-associated decline in Dnmt3a2 expression restores cognitive abilities" (DOI: 10.1038/nn.3151)