Scientists have replicated the enzyme which delays the onset of mental impairment.
Calorie restricted diets, which reduce calorie intake by up to 40 per cent, have been shown to slow ageing in cells and even to prolong life. Most calorie restriction research has been done on mice, but studies in humans have shown that calorie restriction can boost memory in the elderly.
Now researchers say they have found a way to mimic the effects of calorie restriction on the brain. The drug delays cognitive impairment associated with both ageing and Alzheimer’s disease by activating an enzyme in brain cells.
The initial study was conducted on mice, but the results suggest that human trials could show similar results, staving off decline in brain function as we grow older. The study looked at how calorie restriction affects brain cells. It showed that restricting calorie intake by approximately 30 per cent boosts the levels of an enzyme in the brain, and also delays the loss of nerve cells.
When mice were fed a normal amount, but also given the enzyme, the mice had better functioning brain cells and performed better on cognitive tests than the mice which were not given the enzyme. The study is the first demonstration of a synthetic molecule mimicking the benefits of a calorie restricted diet.
David Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School, explained, “What makes this even more interesting is that the [drug] prevented neurodegeneration, one of the hardest degenerative processes to slow down with a drug.”
Read the full study in the Journal of Neuroscience.
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