Navigation Links
UM School of Medicine scientists develop new strategy that may improve cognition
Date:6/30/2010

For the first time, scientists have linked a brain compound called kynurenic acid to cognition, possibly opening doors for new ways to enhance memory function and treat catastrophic brain diseases, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. When researchers decreased the levels of kynurenic acid in the brains of mice, their cognition was shown to improve markedly, according to the study, which was published in the July issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. The study is the result of decades of pioneering research in the lab of Robert Schwarcz, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"We believe that interventions aimed specifically at reducing the level of kynurenic acid in the brain are a promising strategy for cognitive improvement in both healthy patients and in those suffering from a variety of brain diseases ranging from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Schwarcz.

Kynurenic acid is a substance with unique biological properties and is produced when the brain metabolizes the amino acid L-tryptophan. The compound is related to another breakdown product of tryptophan known as quinolinic acid. In 1983, Dr. Schwarz published a paper in the journal Science identifying the critical role excessive quinolinic acid plays in the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington's disease. He has since designed a therapeutic strategy targeting quinolinic acid for the treatment of Huntington's disease. Dr. Schwarcz also is involved in a company called VistaGen, which pursues the development of neuroprotective drugs based on this concept.

In the study published this month, Dr. Schwarcz and his colleagues at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center a world-renowned clinical and basic science research center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine examined mice that had been genetically engineered to have more than 70 percent lower kynurenic acid levels than ordinary mice. These mice were found to perform significantly better than their normal peers on several widely used tests that specifically measure function in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a critical area of the brain for memory and spatial navigation. The mice were clearly superior in their ability to explore and recognize objects, to remember unpleasant experiences and to navigate a maze. The engineered animals also showed increased hippocampal plasticity, meaning they had a greatly improved ability to convert electrical stimuli into long-lasting memories.

"These results are very exciting, because they open up an entirely new way of thinking about the formation and retrieval of memories," says Dr. Schwarcz. "Kynurenic acid has been known for more than 150 years, but only now do we recognize it as a major player in one of the fundamental functions of the brain. Our most recent work, still unpublished, shows that new chemicals that specifically influence the production of kynurenic acid in the brain predictably affect cognition. We are now in the process of developing such compounds for cognitive enhancement in humans."

"I feel confident Dr. Schwarcz's determined pursuit of answers for the desperate patients suffering from devastating neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease, and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, will pay off," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. "His work creates hope for these patients and their families, and his findings are making a significant impact on the field of neuroscience and psychiatric medicine."


'/>"/>

Contact: Karen Buckelew
kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Are school wellness policies stuck in the Ice Age?
2. UM School of Medicine scientists find hormone influences sensitivity to sweetness
3. How smarter school lunchrooms increase fruit sales
4. UM School of Medicine study finds vaginal microbes vary among healthy women
5. Pitts education of aspiring undergrad, high school biologists rewarded with $2 million
6. First course of veggies may appeal to hungry preschoolers
7. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Invests $25,000 to Support Bring Me A Books San Jose Elementary School Library Initiative
8. 86 percent of disadvantaged preschoolers lack basic motor skills
9. University of Nevada School of Medicine physiology professor earns $1.2 million grant over four years to study motility of internal anal sphincter muscle
10. Patterns of growth changing in Inuit preschoolers
11. Pitt Dental School researchers find susceptibility for caries, gum disease in genes
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/25/2016)... Pa. , Jan. 25, 2016   Unisys Corporation ... system at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, New ... Protection (CBP) identify imposters attempting to enter the ... not belong to them. pilot testing of the ... initially at three terminals at JFK during January 2016. --> ...
(Date:1/22/2016)... DUBLIN , Jan. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... announced the addition of the "Global ... report to their offering. --> ... of the "Global Biometrics Market in ... offering. --> Research and ...
(Date:1/20/2016)... 20, 2016   MedNet Solutions , an innovative ... of clinical research, is pleased to announce the attainment ... are the result of the company,s laser focus on ... , it,s comprehensive, easy-to-use and highly affordable cloud-based ... Key MedNet growth achievements in 2015 include: ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Germany and GERMANTOWN, Maryland ... QGEN ; Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) today announced the ... Panels for gene expression profiling, expanding QIAGEN,s portfolio of ... panels enable researchers to select from over 20,000 human ... discover interactions between genes, cellular phenotypes and disease processes. ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... on the development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals and therapeutics, announces an agreement ... 2016 BioProcess International Awards – Recognizing Excellence in the People, Organizations and ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... Reichert Technologies, which ... today to pursue the highest level of accuracy and quality with the addition ... and the AR5 Refractometer. Accurate, reliable and tough enough for the most ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016 Early-career researchers from ... , Uganda and Yemen ... and nutrition   Indonesia , Nepal ... and Yemen are being honored for their accomplishments ... also celebrated for mentoring young women scientists who are pursuing careers in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: