In a recent study that was published in the Nature Medicine journal, American researchers from the University of California in San Francisco have identified the responsability of a protein in the cognitive decline process: as it accumulates in blood with ageing, the protein harms the cognitive functions in the hippocampus, which is a region of the brain associated with memory.
A protein related to ageing could affect memory and cognitive functions
This protein is the Beta 2-microglobuline (also called B2M): it has an important role for people’s immune defence. Nevertheless, researchers underline that this protein could have a negative influence on cognitive and regenerative functions in the adult hippocampus zone, which is a brain zone essential for memory.
In order to put this into light, the researchers have experimented on two groups of younger and older mice. First, they noted that a blood transfusion from the younger mice to the older ones improved their cognitive abilities, going as far as restoring their memory. Furthermore, they tried to see if the reverse effect could happen and if the B2M molecule present in the older mice could have a negative influence on the younger ones.
After injecting the B2M into the hippocampus zone’s blood of the youngest mice, results confirmed their hypothesis: the youngest mice failed memory tests that they used to pass before the injections.
For mice as well as for humans, the B2M in blood rises with ageing. This protein can be found in the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of people suffering from neuro-degenerative such as the Alzheimer’s disease.
The B2M negative effect is reversible
However, the study highlights positive news: the B2M molecule effect is reversible: 30 days after the injection, the negative effects observed on the youngest mice disappear. The researchers concluded that it’s possible to treat the negative effects of the B2M thanks to a targeted treatment. They announced that they wished to develop antibodies and small molecules among different possible treatments especially designed to treat the B2M molecule effect.
Meanwhile, another study case reveals that mice without the B2M protein (which was removed by genetic manipulations) don’t suffer from memory problems and in average have better results on learning tests than the other mice.