Early Diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may be one step closer thanks to new research conducted at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

The study, authored by Rémi Quirion PhD, scientific director of the Douglas, and doctoral student Jonathan Brouillette is the first to identify the role of a new gene, transthyretin (TTR), in age-related memory impairments. Using animal models, their findings showed that those with low levels of TTR activity were more likely to have greater memory deficits in comparison to those with high levels of TTR activity.

These results were confirmed by removing this gene altogether in mice – these animals showed significant age-related impairments. Quirion and Brouillette suggest that TTR plays a role in enhancing the connections between cells of the brain (neurons). If the activity of this gene is reduced, the connections between cells may be broken, resulting in memory difficulties. “Brain aging is a complex process accompanied by molecular modifications that may lead to memory impairments,” said Dr. Quirion. “Our study combined behavioural, genetic and molecular approaches to characterize the role of TTR in this process.”

The study, “Transthyretin: A key gene involved in the maintenance of memory capacities during aging,” was published in a recent issue of the Neurobiology of Aging.