Rapamycin Can Repair Specific Learning Deficits
Rapamycin, a drug approved by the FDA to stop tissue rejection after organ transplants, has been found to reverse the brain dysfunction caused by a genetic disease - tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).
"This is the first study to demonstrate that the drug rapamycin can repair learning deficits related to a genetic mutation that causes autism in humans. The same mutation in animals produces learning disorders, which we were able to eliminate in adult mice," explained principal investigator Dr. Alcino Silva, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our work and other recent studies suggest that some forms of mental retardation can be reversed, even in the adult brain."
"These findings challenge the theory that abnormal brain development is to blame for mental impairment in tuberous sclerosis," added first author Dan Ehninger, postgraduate researcher in neurobiology. "Our research shows that the disease's learning problems are caused by reversible changes in brain function -- not by permanent damage to the developing brain."
TSC often causes severe mental retardation; half of all TSC patients also suffer from autism and epilepsy. The disorder afflicts about one in 6,000 people - twice as common as Huntington's or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Silva and Ehninger studied mice bred with TSC and verified that the animals suffered from the same severe learning difficulties as human patients. Next, the UCLA team traced the source of the learning problems to biochemical changes sparking abnormal function of the hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a key role in memory.
"Memory is as much about discarding trivial details as it is about storing useful information," said Silva, a member of the UCLA Department of Psychology and UCLA Brain Research Institute. "Our findings suggest that mice with the mutation cannot distinguish between important and unimportant data. We suspect that their brains are filled with meaningless noise that interferes with learning."
"After only three days of treatment, the TSC mice learned as quickly as the healthy mice," said Ehninger. "The rapamycin corrected the biochemistry, reversed the learning deficits and restored normal hippocampal function, allowing the mice's brains to store memories properly."
Science fiction fans may be reminded of the technique used in the Hugo award-winning short story Flowers for Algernon, published in 1959 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction by Daniel Keyes. In the story, a lab mouse has undergone a new kind of surgery to increase intelligence. The first human test subject, a mildly retarded man named Charlie, writes a set of brief diary entries that form the story.
(Flowers For Algeron - a book cover you may remember)
Via EurekAlert!; thanks to Moira for the tip and the reference.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/16/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Bioreactor Helps Legless Frogs Get Their Jump Back
'An alien drug... Used by an insect race... It can repair bones and organs. It can grow new tissue." - Clifford Simak, 1961
Sleeep PRO Earplug For Maximum Rest
'Merton... placed the electrodes of the sleep-inducer on his forehead.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1963.
You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.' - Frank Herbert, 1972.
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Sex In Driverless Cars?
'...admirable for petting.'
Amazing Kepler Space Telescope Decommissioned By NASA
'Thus it came about that the search for a planetiferous sun... was not unduly prolonged...'
ODYSSEUS Solar-Powered Stratospheric Plane Flies Forever
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...'
Augmented and-or Virtual Reality Shoes From Google
'The auto-treadmill's bumps and gullies matched whatever terrain the goggles showed me...'
Soon, Your Tesla Will Follow You Like A Pet
'... follow him as faithfully as a well-trained hound.'
Chinese Watrix Gait Recognition Watching You Always
'... those pesky gait-recognition cameras.'
FlexPai Foldable Phone By Royole
'...A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled.'
Bioreactor Helps Legless Frogs Get Their Jump Back
'An alien drug... Used by an insect race... It can repair bones and organs. It can grow new tissue."
Oh Yes, We're Building The Rotating Tower In Dubai
'Give me an old-fashioned tetragon on a central pivot every time.'
Xinhua AI Anchor Puts CGI Face To Automated News
'...a congeries of software agents.'
Wirewax Watching You Watch, Adjusting Your Experience
'He adjusted the n, the r and b knobs, and hopefully anticipated a turn for the better...'
LawGeex AI Beats 20 Top Lawyers
'The Law Society has strict rules on the use of pseudo-intelligent software - terrified of putting... its members out of work.'
ROAM Robotics Skiing Exoskeleton
'The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it...'
MIT Headset Lets You Communicate Without Speaking
'The subvocal read nerve signals, letting her enter words by just beginning to will them...'
Exploring Oceans Across The Solar System
'Black liquid flashed past the turbotís infrared eyes.'
SWEEPER Robot Peter Piper Picking Peppers
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant, apparently on caterpillar tracks, cutting off the ripe fruit.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories