“Super memory” pill… and possibly an Alzheimer’s cure?

I know, we’ve been hoping for this forever… and I’m still hoping. New research has been done that suggests another route for a “super memory” pill:

New research out of the U.S. holds out the hope of a superhuman assist for failing memories — and a badly-needed new therapy for Alzheimer’s patients.

The study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston — led by neuroscientist and former McGill University postdoctoral fellow Mauro Costa-Mattioli with contributions from a couple of Canadians — found suppressing a molecule called PKR in the brains of mice improved the rodents’ memory function and learning abilities.

Researchers found that when PKR is genetically suppressed in mice, another immune molecule, called gamma interferon, increases communication between neurons, improving memory and making brain function more efficient, Costa-Mattioli said.

“If we were to find an inhibitor, a molecule, a drug that will specifically block PKR, we should be able to do the same,” said Costa-Mattioli. “And we did.”

Researchers injected an inhibitor into some of the mice’s stomachs, finding the inhibitor worked to suppress PKR, he said. The success of the injections suggest an ingestible form of the memory-enhancing drug would likely work as well.

I can’t wait until we can take a pill and have better memories.

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  • zach

    I’d like to see some more research on this:

    Lion’s mane is a mushroom that has been used for centuries in the east to enhance the nervous system. Recently it has been discovered that this is because lion’s mane increases the production of Nerve Growth Factor. NGF is responsible for determining the rate at which new brain cells are produced. A Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery because no other substance is known to cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the production of NGF. Six months of supplementation with lion’s mane is proven to produce a significant improvement in nearly every measure of mental function in people with dementia. In a literal sense, you have more brains when you supplement with lion’s mane. NOBEL-FREAKING-PRIZE. Don’t underestimate it.

    • UrsaMinor

      I’m pretty sure that this site really has its info garbled. There was a Nobel Prize awarded in 1986 for the discovery of NGF; it had nothing whatsoever to do with Lion’s Mane. Also, a bit of quick poking around reveals that the only clinical trial in humans of the effects on lion’s mane on human memory and cognition was conducted by- drum-roll please- a mushroom company. Can you say “conflict of interest”, boys and girls?

      Now, this does not mean that the effect in humans is not real, as there appears to be some support for it in tissue culture studies, but the human trial remains to be replicated by an independent laboratory with no commercial ties.

    • Custador

      Brain cells don’t divide and reproduce. Just saying.

      • UrsaMinor

        Certainly not very much, but I was under the impression that there was some lingering controversy about that as an absolute statement of fact.

        • Custador

          I was not aware there was a question over it, to be honest.

          • Michael

            I do recall there being some evidence that it was possible or that it happened in rare cases or extremely slowly, but I don’t really remember where and can’t find the study.

            There is however quite a bit of evidence that SOCS3 inhibition promotes axon regeneration in injured CNS neurons.

            • UrsaMinor

              Axon regeneration isn’t the same as new cell division, although forming new connections with surrounding neurons could certainly restore some function lost to injury.

              Maybe LRA will weigh in on this. She knows more than I do about neurophysiology by a long shot. I’m on a much firmer footing discussing general biochemistry (i.e.,the sorts of things that happen inside individual cells). Metabolism and molecules are my thing.

              I suppose it’s not a terribly important question whether there are small, localized exceptions to the rule; it’s pretty clear that the adult brain doesn’t regenerate significantly from tissue damage the way that, say, a fingertip does. It may rewire itself and reroute traffic to compenstate, but it doesn’t grow back.

            • Michael

              I know they are not the same, which is why I said I couldn’t find anything about cell division but I could find a lot about axon regeneration. My post would make zero sense otherwise.

              Axon regeneration is in fact important precisely because if the neuron is lost it is irreplaceable.

      • Michael

        NGF could potentially be used to treat Alzheimer’s because it inhibits neuron degeneration; there is no requirement for new brain cell growth.

        • Custador

          No, I was aware of that. I was responding to Zach’s quote:

          “NGF is responsible for determining the rate at which new brain cells are produced.”

          As an aside to point out the danger of reading popular journalism on scientific issues.

  • Rob Jase

    I’ve already got my secret compartment ring to store the pill in.

  • Mike

    I’ve been waiting for a pill to help me forget things! (My religious indoctrination would be the first to go!)

    • http://argama.deviantart.com/ Sunny Ng

      It already comes in liquid form; Vodka.

  • TrickQuestion

    “And it will hit the market for the low low price of 150 dollars per pill”

  • Rayceeya

    Alzheimer’s runs in my family. I’ve seen my great grand parents fade away and now my grand parents are fading.

    If this drug is a cure maybe it will be in time to save my parents and me when the time comes.

  • Ty

    I can never remember to take my pills.

    • UrsaMinor

      Pity. I hear there’s a pill for that.

  • Noelle

    Well, I’m a doctor not a neuroscientist, so maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t remember this PKR being part of the cause of Alzheimer’s dementia. Though what causes Alzheimer’s isn’t exactly known in all its details, we have a pretty good idea. And it’s complicated. Though some cases seem to come from genetic mutations, the same mutations aren’t seen in other cases. There are a few examples of it running in families, but most cases are sporadic. There may be environmental or viral causes for some. It has to do with hyperphosphilated proteins in neurons causing neurofibrillary tangles and taking down the neuronal transport. And that’s just part of it. You also have aggregation of a beta amyloid protein killing cells and clumping up in plaques. It’s basically a bunch of bad news for the brain.

    Research findings in memory are interesting, and this might be a useful link somewhere else. But I don’t see where for Alzheimer’s.

  • Len

    Are we sure this isn’t just an elaborate advert for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”? Not sure whether we should be afraid if it is or it isn’t.

  • joe

    Do I really need a pill to help me remember my wife is ugly and my children are stupid? Did it ever occur to anyone old people might want to forget their disappointments. Save me from saviours.

    • Daniel Florien

      This is sad :(

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