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Easter Island drug raises cognition throughout life span
Date:6/29/2012

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, U.S.A. (June 29, 2012) -- Cognitive skills such as learning and memory diminish with age in everyone, and the drop-off is steepest in Alzheimer's disease. Texas scientists seeking a way to prevent this decline reported exciting results this week with a drug that has Polynesian roots.

The researchers, appointed in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, added rapamycin to the diet of healthy mice throughout the rodents' life span. Rapamycin, a bacterial product first isolated from soil on Easter Island, enhanced learning and memory in young mice and improved these faculties in old mice, the study showed.

"We made the young ones learn, and remember what they learned, better than what is normal," said Veronica Galvan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, part of the UT Health Science Center. "Among the older mice, the ones fed with a diet including rapamycin actually showed an improvement, negating the normal decline that you see in these functions with age."

The drug also lowered anxiety and depressive-like behavior in the mice, Dr. Galvan said. Anxiety and depression are factors that impair human cognitive performance. Lead author Jonathan Halloran conducted scientifically reliable tests to accurately measure these cognitive components in the rodents.

Venturing into the open

Mice are burrowers that prefer tunnels with walls. To observe behavior, Halloran used an elevated maze of tunnels that led to a catwalk. "All of a sudden the mice are in open space," Halloran said. "It's pretty far from the floor for their size, sort of like if a person is hiking and suddenly the trail gets steep. It's pretty far down and not so comfortable."

Mice with less anxiety were more curious to explore the catwalk. "We observed that the mice fed with a diet containing rapamycin spent significantly
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Contact: Will Sansom
sansom@uthscsa.edu
210-567-2579
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Source:Eurekalert  

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