Thursday, 1 March 2012

Removing epigenetic memory blockages in Alzheimer's disease

The progressive deterioration of one’s social and cognitive functioning is often thought of as being synonymous with the normal aging process. After all we all forget names, misplace our keys and stumble over our words from time to time. Hell, sometimes it even happens in the absence of that second glass of wine. Yet you only need to look at Christopher Plummer's recent Oscar acceptance speech to realise that a deteriorating mind is not an inherent part of growing old. After all Plummer is 82 and appears to more on the ball than me most weekday mornings. Instead more often than not impairments to cognition in the elderly, and at times the not so elderly, are attributable to the presence of an underlying neurodegenerative dementia known as Alzheimer's disease. Whilst the causes leading to these impairments remain poorly understood, and largely contentious, new research published in Nature suggests that cognitive capacities in the deteriorating brain may arise due to 'epigenetic blockages in gene transcription', which, if the results are anything to go by, just might be reversible.