Reducing caloric intake delays nerve cell loss

May 21, 2013
To delay the onset of neurodegeneration, mice have the option to undergo a regimen of caloric restriction (represented by the scale) or a pharmacological treatment with a SIRT1-activation compound (SRT), both of which result in reduced memory loss and preserved synaptic plasticity. Credit: Li-Huei Tsai, Ph.D.

Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May 22 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings could one day guide researchers to discover drug alternatives that slow the progress of age-associated impairments in the brain.

Previous studies have shown that reducing extends the lifespan of a variety of species and decreases the that often accompany aging and such as Alzheimer's. There is also evidence that activates an enzyme called Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which studies suggest offers some protection against age-associated impairments in the brain.

In the current study, Li-Huei Tsai, PhD, Johannes Gräff, PhD, and others at the Picower Institute For Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, tested whether reducing caloric intake would delay the onset of nerve cell loss that is common in neurodegenerative disease, and if so, whether SIRT1 activation was driving this effect. The group not only confirmed that caloric restriction delays nerve cell loss, but also found that a drug that activates SIRT1 produces the same effects.

"There has been great interest in finding compounds that mimic the benefits of caloric restriction that could be used to delay the onset of age-associated problems and/or diseases," said Luigi Puglielli, MD, PhD, who studies aging at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and was not involved in this study. "If proven safe for humans, this study suggests such a drug could be used as a preventive tool to delay the onset of neurodegeneration associated with several diseases that affect the ," Puglielli added.

In the study, Tsai's team first decreased by 30 percent the normal diets of mice genetically engineered to rapidly undergo changes in the brain associated with neurodegeneration. Following three months on the diet, the mice completed several learning and memory tests. "We not only observed a delay in the onset of neurodegeneration in the calorie-restricted mice, but the animals were spared the learning and memory deficits of mice that did not consume reduced-calorie diets," Tsai explained.

Curious if they could recreate the benefits of caloric restriction without changing the animals' diets, the scientists gave a separate group of mice a drug that activates SIRT1. Similar to what the researchers found in the mice exposed to reduced-calorie diets, the mice that received the drug had less cell loss and better cellular connectivity than the mice that did not receive the drug. Additionally, the mice that received the drug treatment performed as well as normal mice in learning and memory tests.

"The question now is whether this type of treatment will work in other animal models, whether it's safe for use over time, and whether it only temporarily slows down the progression of neurodegeneration or stops it altogether," Tsai said.

Explore further: Blocking protein expression delays onset of multiple sclerosis in mice, study says

Related Stories

Blocking protein expression delays onset of multiple sclerosis in mice, study says

May 10, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Blocking the expression of just one protein in the brain delays the onset of paralysis in mice with a form of multiple sclerosis, say researchers at the School of Medicine.

Study: Eating less keeps the brain young

December 19, 2011
Overeating may cause brain aging while eating less turns on a molecule that helps the brain stay young.

Caloric restriction has a protective effect on chromosomes

January 23, 2013
One of the indicators of a cell's health is the state of its DNA and containers—the chromosomes—so when these fuse together or suffer anomalies, they can become the source of illnesses like cancer and/or ageing processes.

Scientists develop drug that slows Alzheimer's in mice

May 13, 2013
A drug developed by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, known as J147, reverses memory deficits and slows Alzheimer's disease in aged mice following short-term treatment. The findings, published May 14 ...

Feeling hungry may protect the brain against Alzheimer's disease, study finds

April 3, 2013
The feeling of hunger itself may protect against Alzheimer's disease, according to study published today in the journal PLOS ONE. Interestingly, the results of this study in mice suggest that mild hunger pangs, and related ...

Recommended for you

The neural codes for body movements

July 21, 2017
A small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to researchers in the laboratory of Caltech's Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Tianqiao and Chrissy ...

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.