Menu
Scientific discoveries
Africa no 'basket case', says soil scientist
Bursting bubbles give birth to daughters
Tracking apps could 'undermine trust'
Roaches prefer dinner parties to eating alone
Astronomers catch exoplanet on the move
New evidence supports Mars ocean theory
Champion of safe whale rescue honoured
Moon has more water than first thought
Zap of UV light may have triggered life
Clearing leads to rise in malaria in Brazil
Researchers light up optical processing
Females as good as males with directions
Oil dispersant effects remain murky
New theory on how to see inside black holes
Whales closer to us than thought
Researchers unravel missing height riddle
Tree frog tantrums keep rivals at bay
Scientists sequence human louse genome
Humans have a 'mighty bite'
Urban areas 'getting hotter faster'
Bilingualism key to language survival
No link between infant cancer, phone masts: study
Quantum crystal stops light in its tracks
Raging storm detected on faraway world
Longevity gene may also boost memory
A gene linked to increased life span also appears to play a critical role in boosting memory and brain power, according to a study.

The SIRT1 gene, called Sirtuin1 in humans, seems to enhance memory and nerve-cell development in the brain as well, according to the new findings, published in the journal Nature .

The work could provide leads for drugs to combat Alzheimer's and other debilitating neurological diseases, the researchers said.

A team led by Professor Li-Huei Tsai, director of the neurobiology program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, had earlier demonstrated that Sirtuin1 boosts neuron survival in mice genetically modified to mimic certain degenerative brain disorders.

"We have now found that SIRT1 activity also promotes memory and plasticity," says Tsai, referring to the ability of healthy brain cells to interconnect.

"This result demonstrates a multi-faceted role of SIRT1 in the brain, further highlighting its potential as a target for the treatment of conditions with impaired cognition."
Reduced density

In experiments, Tsai examined behaviour and brain development in mice deficient in the SIRT1 gene.

Compared to normal mice, they reacted poorly to electrical stimulation in the hippocampus, which is critical to long-term memory and spatial navigation. In Alzheimer's, the hippocampus is one of the first regions in the brain to be damaged.

The gene-altered lab mice also had reduced density of neuron development, a key measure of brain activity.

Finally, they were less able to discriminate old from new objects in memory tests.

"SIRT1 deficient mice are impaired in all three memory paradigms compared to control mice," says Tsai.

The study also unveiled a previously unknown mechanism: by keeping certain gene regulators called mircoRNAs in check, the SIRT1 gene allows the memory-enhancing proteins to be expressed.
Turbocharging

Tsai cautions that the results are preliminary, adding that it was still too early to design clinical trials with humans.

But the study does open up the intriguing possibility that Sirtuin1 enzymes could one day be used to turbocharge memory and brain function even in healthy people, she acknowledges.

"Activation of sirtuins can be mildly beneficial in humans," she says.

Recent research suggests that the gene and the enzymes it produces are part of a feedback system that enhances cell survival during times of stress, especially a lack of food.

Print
Rising CO2 may lead Nemo to danger
Crocodiles dive less in warmer waters
Looming La Nina to bring more rain
Debate over industry impact on WA rock art
Your hair reveals where you've been
Proton's measure comes up short
Dig unearths tiny Australian carnivore
Umbraphiles head to South Pacific
Longevity gene may also boost memory
Mobile invention could be desert lifeline
Jumping spider vision not so clear cut
Belly button key to success in sport
Scientists create cloth that can listen
Long odds of finding ET, say researchers
Gorillas learn by playing 'tag'
Study shows outback soaking up CO2
China's wars, rebellions driven by climate
Ancient trap captures marsupial secrets
Big baby star spotted in dusty womb
Scientists think chicken came first
New theory on why some mountains crumble
Messenger unlocks Mercurian secrets
Scientists uncover creatures of the deep
Shrinking sky has scientists baffled
Powerful cosmic blast blinds telescope
Why wearing heels can be a pain
Rockmelons came out of Asia, not Africa
Screening speech may aid autism diagnosis
Menu
Scientists herald decade of human genome
Scientists create 'artificial' lungs
Touch affects how people feel
Malaria accompanied humans out of Africa
Concerns raised over carbon capture
Blood test predicts menopause date
Extracted teeth yield stem cells
Galactic monster mystery solved
Climate change amplified in Arctic
Study finds new potential flu defence
Mystery of AIDS-resistant monkeys revealed
Nano-lasers to light homes of the future
Clock ticking on growing toxic waste pile
Bigger bang for our biodiversity buck
Monster Moby Dick chomped on whales
First pics of faraway planet confirmed
Penalty kicks may be predictable: study
Gene pattern predicts who live the longest
Japanese probe yields insights into Moon
Plastic bags may become new energy source
New tool to accurately map earthquake risk
Planck captures 'embers' of Big Bang
Scientists find protein link to Alzheimer's
Some outcomes require no thought: review