Researchers in the US have found that treating reversible chemical changes to the DNA code in mice with features of Alzheimer’s disease can improve their memory. The findings are published in the journal Brain.
So-called ‘epigenetic changes’ occur when DNA becomes chemically tagged, affecting whether a gene is switched on or off. Researchers believe this is one way that a person’s environment may influence their genetics and affect the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
In this study, the researchers studied brain tissue from mice with features of Alzheimer’s disease and identified an epigenetic change that was more common in brain regions involved in memory. Researchers also looked at human post-mortem brain tissue and found that some of these changes were also present in people with Alzheimer’s.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We know a complex mix of genetics and lifestyle are behind diseases like Alzheimer’s, and epigenetics represents a way that these forces can interact.One of the most exciting aspects of epigenetic research is that the changes are potentially reversible, and this study highlights how targeting an epigenetic change could help improve brain function in mice with features of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These interesting findings in mice now need to be taken forward in studies in people, to explore whether they could form the basis of a future treatment approach for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and it is important to tackle it from as many different angles as possible. Drugs that target epigenetic changes are already available for people with cancer and Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding research into epigenetics to further understand this important process and how it can be used to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.”