BIO 2010: Can We Reverse Memory Loss during Aging?

May 10 2010

Memory loss, as many people with an aging parent or loved one can tell you, is a sad and frustrating experience. Demographers predict that there will be more than 71.5 million people 65+ years old and 9.6 million who will reach 85+ years of age by 2030. Of these, roughly 10% will experience moderate to severe memory loss.

Here's a brief outline of what a panel of experts had to say about their findings at a BIO 2010 session on May 4.

Paul Gold, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Rat experiments indicate that memory enhancement is modulated by epinephrine and glucose concentrations outside brain.  Aged rats produced more epinephrine upon stimulation than younger rats, glucose outside and inside brain decreased, indicating glucose, not epinephrine, enhances memory.  However, glucose-memory relationship is not clear in human subjects.  Researches on memory loss should be pursued from (a) loss of brain matter and (b) loss of modulators.

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Molly Wagster, PhD, National Institute on Aging, NIA/NIH

According to Cognitive Aging Research at the National Institute on Aging, two results of memory loss stand out:

(1) Social isolation

(2) Reduced ability to quickly master complex information

Effects of Exercise, Behavior and Dietary interventions on aging dogs: in the first two years there are small differences in preventing cognitive declines by those interventions, however, by the  third year the results of those interventions became definitively evident that the interventions are effective.  However, her study panel found very weak evidence relating to human subjects.  NIA is in the stage of resources building under the program of “cognitive and Emotional Health Projects – The Healthy Brain.”

Two of the three projects that already funded are:

(1) Neural and Behavioral Profiles of Age-related Cognitive Decline

(2) Pilot Trials for Remediation of Age-related Cognitive Declines

2010 Cognitive Aging Summit, Oct 4-5, 2010, Washington D.C.,

Press releases and conference documents for the NIH State of the Science Conference (April 26-28, 2010).  Statement on Alzheimer's.

An assessment of neurological and behavioral function.

There was an NIH-sponsored program April 26-28, 2010 "Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline."

Interestingly, despite beneficial physical results, the report shows there is weak evidence for games, nutrition and exercise playing a role in preventing Alzheimer's Disease and cognitive decline.

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William Klein, Professor, Northwestern University

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the third most costly disease in the U.S.

AD is one of the most difficult diseases to deal with, because (1) diagnoses are imprecise and (2) therapeutics are useless.  It seems very important to identify AD biomarkers.

In the past, the focus has been on amyloid plaques. However, it now appears that small (nano size) globules block the synaptic information storage capacity of the brain.

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Michael Decker, PhD, Abbott

There are 5 declines that challenge drug discovery and development for age-related memory loss:

1) Vigilance (i.e. working memory)

2) Attention

3) Feeding (many become anorexic)

4) Cognition

5) Sensory gating

Histamine appeared to be a modulator of memory enhancement.  Histamine receptor on neurons (H3) .  When rats were treated with H3 antagonist, improved social recognition memory was shown in aged rats. 

There is no drug development going on at this time at Abbott. Research on pTau and others are being used purely as research tools.

Roche has a compound, as well as EnVivo. They are in Phase Ib and IIa, respectively. Pfizer's Dimebon, which is currently in Phase III clinical studies, is not duplicating the effects shown in earlier phases.

There is a serious need for predictive diagnostics and biomarkers addressing memory loss during aging.

Category: Now You Know
Filed under: Aging, Mental Health