Repairing Brain Cells As They Age, New Discovery, New Hope:
So a lot of us worry about losing our abilities, or marbles, as time goes on.
We’d all like to stay healthy as we do age, reflected in that new-ish term, “Healthspan”.
Which flies in the face of the old ideas that say there’s not much you can do.
Especially for the most important part of you, Your Brain.
Well some researchers from California and Canada present a Bad News, Good News scenario in their new work,
And if they’re right, may just prove the old ideas about brain-aging almost completely wrong….
Do Our Brains Really Have To Age Badly?:
So except for serious cases like Alzheimer’s where the effects are disastrous,
Everyone of us still accepts the idea that as we age our brains will naturally tend to slow down.
And the short answer is, UCB researchers found an Achilles’ Heel in our brains age that makes their defenses weaker, letting in things that shouldn’t get there, starting at the age of 40.
-But don’t worry. Those same researchers and their colleagues also developed new drugs to stop this in a variety of ways,
So the future for staying sharp over time looks extremely bright. No, it’s not Prevagen, nor is it from jellyfish either. So Read On to find out how…
Dr. Daniela Kaufman’s miracle discovery shows the mechanism by which we become vulnerable.
We all have a special layer that protects our brains called the blood brain barrier.
As the name might imply, what it does is to keep all kinds of things like viruses and bacteria out of your brain,
It only lets in the stuff that absolutely has to get in there and nothing more.
This includes things like nutrients from the food you eat, oxygen from your blood, and some biochemicals like prescription medication.
And that’s where things start to get weird.
Because what Daniela found, is not just that our bodies age, not just that our brains age,
This special barrier between our brain and everything else starts to age too!
The Sobering Stats:
In fact, Dr. Kaufman estimates as many as 30-40% of the population will have a compromised blood-brain-barrier by the age of 40.
The amount that it’s compromised then becomes almost twice that at 60% of everyone by the age of 60.
And Crucially, the brain reacts to the breach by becoming inflamed where the barrier is compromised.
So her new discovery would suggest that some form of cognitive decline is in the cards for almost all of us as time goes forward.
About the only thing we know that can combat the decline are different forms of exercise, especially Cardiovascular, and just overall good circulation.
Because as we said before, what’s good for the heart is also good for the head.
Brain Cell Repair, The Light At The End Of The Tunnel:
Well Daniela’s research team at UC Berkeley did us all one better.
In addition to finding a problem, they also found the solution!
She found a drug that stops the inflammation from damage to the blood brain barrier,
Which had been freaking-out special type of cells called Astrocytes,
Once that freakout is tamed, the problem slows down.
But it gets even better than that.
Oh Yeah, It Doesn’t Just Stop Aging. It Reverses It!:
Because as soon as things stop getting worse, they start getting better.
Once on the drug called IPW, test mice began to show signs this particular part of Aging was not just slowing down or stopping.
It was reversing.
As a matter of fact, the recovery was so good, Daniela thinks that if it can be caught early enough, you might not actually be “Losing” anything in the process,
Because the tests show those cells seem to bounce-back and start working better as early as 7 days into treatment.
The drug she used works on the exact same pathways in humans as it does in mice.
Which is really important because the problems between the two species are identical in tests.
Eerily Similar To Some Alzheimer’s Conditions:
Also remember from the post on Gingivitis getting into your brain,
That one of the theories about Alzheimer’s Disease recently is that it’s just the brain protecting itself from inflammation in the first place.
So Daniela could really be onto something here. Maybe even the beginning of a cure, just by finding out the BBB becomes compromised in the first place!
But Wait, One Of Daniela’s Colleagues Has Another Brain Cell Repair Drug!:
As an aside, another researcher named Etienne Sibille came up with something similar to Daniela’s fix.
But this one doesn’t repair the blood brain barrier; yet.
It’s a non-tranquilizer variant of Valium and can actually restore lost brain function.
What happens is a certain type of cell called a somato-statin-plus starts to get damaged and this reduces memory, decision-making, and other functions with age.
His tests on mice show that the ones who had these abilities reduced by 50% from induced-stress,
Were able to regain all of that function,
Within 30 Minutes!
The then proceeded to perform all tasks at the level of young mice again.
Rejuvenate Your Brain, In 30 Minutes:
This result was replicated 15 times in a row and lasted the duration of testing via daily doses of the drug.
In that time, the brain cells even repaired themselves to the point they eventually looked like young brain cells again.
So it’s not just a temporary effect that lasts only as long as the drug.
This is also really important, because a lot of that regained-function was in working-memory, and the ability to perform tasks that are based on its use.
So this shows us there’s a really good possibility that age related mental decline does not have to be inevitable.
More encouragingly, Memory is also the main battlefield of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Now Dr. Sibille is not claiming this is an AD fix, only that it will restore compromised brain cells back to normal youthful function.
Sibille Will Produce The Drug As Soon As He Can:
But here’s some more good news.
The team that came up with this drug is also going to be producing it for humans,
Unlike so many of these tests, it looks unlikely to become just another lab experiment that only works on mice.
So just like the ones in the test, there may be every chance in the future that the 80-year-olds will have a chance to be as sharp as the 18-year-olds again.
Strangely enough both of these researchers have ties to the same game-changing NIH brain research program.
The Future Of Regeneration Isn’t Just Fingers & Toes:
So we’ve talked previously linked about how several problems can be caused by things getting into the brain that really shouldn’t be there.
Like Gingivitis and Herpes in the case of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Also, the hilariously-unlikely possibility that you might catch Toxoplasma from your cats,
And either come down with Schizophrenia or even worse, become a Business major.
It’s oddly-interesting, because the fantasy of regenerative medicine always focus on tragic occurrences like battlefield-injuries and the loss of a limb, for example.
But with the discoveries of researchers like Daniela Kaufer and Etienne Sibille, it looks like this might be the very small beginnings of an even-more fantastical type of regenerative medicine,
The one that treats the most complicated part of us; our Brains.
Hurry Up! Because Age-Related Decline Has Some Scary Stats!:
With the current statistics for the eventuality of many people getting Alzheimer’s at 10% for Over-65 and 32% for Over-85,
Anything we can find to help preserve and repair our brains with time will be a truly-welcome innovation by medical researchers.
One more footnote, on good reasons to take care of your Mental Health, too.
Another researcher who presented at the same AAAS conference showed that mental illness like depression may prematurely aged the brain.
So not only is it important to fix problems as early as you can,
Sufferers of many mental illnesses may also be among the fortunate groups to benefit from Daniela & Etienne’s wonderful brain cell repairing discoveries.
Photo Credits: “African elephant trunk”, by Steve Buissinne