Boston Globe (January 31, 2011): Glimpse Into How the Brain Forms Memories Could Hold Hope for Alzheimer's Treatment

Publication Date: 
Mon, 01/31/2011

Who wouldn't want a sharper memory?

Facing the devastation of Alzheimer's disease, the normal forgetfulness of aging, or even just a particularly important exam, many people would be tempted by a drug that could prevent forgetting or enhance memory.

Pharmaceutical companies are racing to test compounds that could help treat people who suffer from devastating neurodegenerative diseases, while makers of nutritional supplements highlight their alledged brain-boosting abilites.

And in scientific laboratories, researchers focusing on the basic question of how memories form and persist are beginning to gain insights that could eventually lead to drugs that could restore or improve the ability to remember. In new research published last week, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine injected a hormone similar to insulin into rats' brains and found they could enhance the animals' memories of an unpleasant experience.

Meanwhile, researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory over the past few years have discovered that a drug that allows coils of DNA to relax can restore learning and memory in mice with a condition resembling Alzheimer's disease.

The MIT researchers are now exploring the possibility of founding a start-up or partnering with a pharmaceutical company in order to bring their work out of the lab and into clinical trials.