"The discovery creates a new potential strategy for improving cognitive performance in elderly patients and those who have a neurological disease or brain injury."
New York, June 10 - In a breakthrough that could provide new strategies for treating neuro-degenerative disease and memory loss, scientists have identified a gene that prompts growth of new neurons in adults.
Learning and memory are regulated by a region of the brain known as the hippocampus.
New research from City of Hope National Medical Centre, California, has found that stimulating a specific gene could prompt growth of new neurons in this critical region, leading to faster learning and better memories.
Memory loss is a major health problem, both in diseases like Alzheimer's, but also just associated with ageing, said Yanhong Shi, lead author of the study.
We manipulated the expression of this receptor by introducing an additional copy of the gene - which obviously we cannot do outside the laboratory setting, Shi explained.
The research on an animal model found that over-expressing the gene - a nuclear receptor called TLX - resulted in smart, faster learners that retained information better and longer.
The next step is to find the drug that can target this same gene, Shi noted.
The discovery creates a new potential strategy for improving cognitive performance in elderly patients and those who have a neurological disease or brain injury.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.