A new study by University of Haifa scientists has identified activity of brain proteins associated with memory impairments in Alzheimer’s disease, and has also found that “repairing” this activity leads to an improvement in memory.

“In the study we found that the nerve cells in the mouse models of Alzheimer’s face a type of metabolic stress. When a cell faces such metabolic stress, it is logical that it will reduce its activity level in order to survive. The problem is that this stress is chronic and leads to impairment of cognitive functioning,” says research student Yifat Segev, who undertook the study together with Dr. Iliana Barrera and additional colleagues from Prof. Kobi Rosenblum’s lab at the Sagol Department of Neurobiology at the University of Haifa. Researchers from the medical school in Bergen, Norway also took part in the study.

The researchers hope that a new startup they have founded on the basis of the findings will enable the development of a drug that will delay the onset of cognitive symptoms.

A previous study by Segev at the laboratory for research of molecular and cellular mechanisms, directed by Rosenblum, found a connection between a genetic condition known to be a risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer’s and premature aging as manifested in ongoing metabolic stress.

In the present study, Segev and Bererra reach an even deeper understanding of the abnormality of the process and, in particular, finds that “repairing” the process improves the ability to create new memories.

“In previous studies we showed that it is possible to improve long-term memory by regulating the course of the PKR protein and the eIF2 in models in young and healthy animals. Then we found a connection between eIF2 and cognitive impairment in the context of Alzheimer’s. Now, we have not only deepened our understanding of these processes, but we have also managed to show that it is possible to cause a cognitive improvement in an Alzheimer’s model,” says Rosenblum.

“I hope that the new start-up we established on the basis of these findings will enable a drug to be found that can delay the onset of cognitive symptoms in dementia patients and in people with various cognitive impairments.”

The study was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.