For many years, medical doctors and research scientists believed the human brain had a limited capacity to undergo self-renewal as it aged, where unlike other organs of the body, loss of a cell to death or damage is not followed by growth of replacements. But according to a recently-released study, the neurons making up the bulk of the brain might actually be replenished well into adulthood. As such, perhaps the public service messages advising people that you only get a fixed amount of brain cells and therefore should not use illicit drugs and alcohol because they kill neurons may be in error.

To better understand the research and its significance, here is some background information on the architecture of the human brain.

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Reportage at a French Blood Establishment blood donation session in Haute-Savoie, France. (Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty images)

Building on previous research into aging brains, new research conducted at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), published in the journal Cell, has discovered that the blood of the young can regenerate the brains of the old. One day, this might enable the creation of therapies to treat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. However, before you go looking for a teenager to harvest blood from, keep in mind that the research has only been tested in mice. However, there is a clinical trial underway by a Monterey, California-based startup known as Ambrosia, where you can attempt to young-down your brain with youthful blood transfusions for a cool $8000.

The UCSF researchers, led by neurobiologist Saul Villeda, drew upon the effects of a recently discovered cellular enzyme known as Tet2 (ten eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenase 2), an epigenetic regulator, which makes chemical annotations to parts of DNA that change the activity of many different genes, including some that help prevent cognitive decline in the aging brain. Many of the genes it marks are indicated in increased risks of common age-related health conditions (which also are common killers), such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

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[DIGEST: PBS, Science, Science, Science, JAlzheimer's, NeurobioAging, SciRep]

There are two types of memory: short term memory and long term memory, right?  Short term memory includes things like the phone call we just finished, what we had for breakfast, and who is picking up the kids today.  Long-term memory is the face of our best friend from third grade, whether we paid our taxes on time last year, or the names of the bones in the human body from high school biology class.

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