Ann Massie, a VUB professor, and her research group Neuro-Aging & Viro-Immunotherapy have discovered a surprising finding in an article in the leading journal Molecular Psychiatry. They have discovered a method that puts life expectancy in place and counteracts memory loss during the aging process.
"According to World Health Organization statistics, the number of people over the age of 60 exceeds the number of children under the age of five." One of the most significant complications of increasing life expectancy is the increase in people with cognitive decline or dementia. This is essential to understand how physiological aging can impact our brains. This may help us understand how to prevent pathological aging and cognitive decline.
The study by Professor Massie''s team is looking at the function of the so-called cystine/glutamate antiporter system xc- in healthy and diseased brains. During the export of glutamate, this system xc- can have an adverse effect on the brain, thus the absence of system xc- can have an beneficial impact on mouse longevity and, more importantly, on the functioning of the aging mouse brain.
"We see in the laboratory that mice age and there is no memory loss during the aging process when there is no system xc-. This function of the hippocampus, a brain region that is very sensitive to age-related decline and crucial to our memory, is preserved in these mice. This is against all expectations, because we had actually predicted the aging process to be accelerate in mice lacking system xc-."
Further study is focused on developing understanding of the mechanism that allows for brain function to be preserved in conjunction with pathological conditions, such as Alzheimer''s disease.
"We are evolving to an age when physical and cognitive limitations affect our quality of life." The aging process involves changes in our brain and immune system, which communicate with each other. Understanding this process can help in the search for the cure to healthy aging."