REST Factor Could Help Seniors Turn Back the Clock on Aging Brains
Recent studies show that sleep can help seniors improve their memory and even learn new facts better. But REST, it turns out, is a powerful component to alleviating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
We’re not talking about taking a break … a Harvard study discovered that the protein RE1-Silencing Transcription factor or, REST, for short, could hold powerful treatment possibilities for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. The protein is active during brain development in the fetal stage of humans. Later in life, in some people, it’s switched back “on” to help combat the onset of disease or environmental damage to brain cells.
Who Gets Alzheimers and Why?
Scientific research has shown that Alzheimer’s patients have an accumulation of plaque and tangles of proteins in their brains. When this is found during autopsy, it is used as conclusive evidence of Alzheimer’s as the cause of death. Yet, some people with tangles and plaque never show any signs of dementia. Why do these signs indicative of Alzheimer’s fail to cause symptoms of the disease in some people? The answer may lie in the REST protein.
The Stress Response That Re-Activates REST
A stress response sometimes kicks in during middle age or the senior years to help protect against both oxidative stress and the tangled brain proteins that indicate Alzheimer’s.
In a study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and published in Nature, high levels of REST were found in the brain samples of seniors who died with strong cognitive function. People with Alzheimer’s related plaques, but who died with no symptoms of the disease, had REST levels three times higher than those with plaque and tangles in their brain who died with Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms.
“This raises the possibility that the structural pathology may not be sufficient to cause Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead researcher and geneticist Bruce Yankner in an article published at TheScientist.com. “A failure of the brain stress response, which REST might mediate, may also be required.”
What REST Research Could Mean
If researchers can discover a means to activate the REST protein as soon as the first signs of Alzheimer’s appear, there could be hope to stop the progression of the disease. In this best-case scenario, we’d be using the body’s own natural functions to stop disease. Another possibility would be replicating the REST protein artificially, using medication to stop Alzheimer’s progression.
A Cure For Alzheimer’s on the Horizon?
Imagine a world without the heartbreaking situation of losing a loved one and their lifetime of memories, before they’ve actually passed on. We may be one step closer to that reality with the discovery of REST and its effect on Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
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