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New research into brain aging

28 September 2012

New research into brain aging

Biologists at the University of Portsmouth have been awarded £600,000 to research little-known brain proteins and their impact on brain ageing.

The study will focus on the protein Kir4.1 which controls special cells in the brain and spinal cord that form myelin.  It has already been proven that myelin acts as an insulator to protect nerve cells and when it is damaged there is an interference in the communication of messages to and from the brain.

Professor Arthur Butt, from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, said, “These cells in the brain are generated at birth and during the first years of development.  But they continue to be generated in the adult brain and are important for replacing cells lost during the normal ageing process.  We think that the brain slows down its production of these cells as it ages and this decreases the rate at which the brain repairs its white matter – important for cognitive function.  The area of the brain known as the hippocampus, important for storing memory, is also affected.  Through investigating the signals used by the brain to control these functions we hope to gain further insight into the ageing brain and better understand diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.”