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Lack of naturally occuring protein linked to dementia
Date:8/26/2014

Scientists at the University of Warwick have provided the first evidence that the lack of a naturally occurring protein is linked to early signs of dementia.

Published in Nature Communications, the research found that the absence of the protein MK2/3 promotes structural and physiological changes to cells in the nervous system. These changes were shown to have a significant correlation with early signs of dementia, including restricted learning and memory formation capabilities.

An absence of MK2/3, in spite of the brain cells (neurons) having significant structural abnormalities, did not prevent memories being formed, but did prevent these memories from being altered.

The results have led the researchers to call for greater attention to be paid to studying MK2/3.

Lead researcher and author Dr Sonia Corra says that "Understanding how the brain functions from the sub-cellular to systems level is vital if we are to be able to develop ways to counteract changes that occur with ageing.

"By demonstrating for the first time that the MK2/3 protein, which is essential for neuron communication, is required to fine-tune memory formation this study provides new insight into how molecular mechanisms regulate cognition".

Neurons can adapt memories and make them more relevant to current situations by changing the way they communicate with other cells.

Information in the brain is transferred between neurons at synapses using chemicals (neurotransmitters) released from one (presynaptic) neuron which then act on receptors in the next (postsynaptic) neuron in the chain.

MK2/3 regulates the shape of spines in properly functioning postsynaptic neurons. Postsynaptic neurons with MK2/3 feature wider, shorter spines (Fig.1) than those without (Fig2) - see attached diagram and photo.

The researchers found that change, caused by MK2/3's absence, in the spine's shape restricts the ability of neurons t
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Contact: Tom Frew
a.t.frew@warwick.ac.uk
44-024-765-75910
University of Warwick
Source:Eurekalert  

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