Scientists have identified a gene in the brains of mice, that when turned on, give them super memories. And considering that mice brains and people brains are basically made of the same stuff, it could be possible to switch on this molecule in people, giving us tremendous super memory. But do you really want to remember everything?
Baylor University researchers discovered that a molecule called PKR serves two crucial function in the brains of mice. In everyday situations, it’s concerned with regulating how neurons interact in memory-related tasks. But when a virus invades, PRK activates a stress response that alerts the rest of the brain that something is very wrong. Alzheimer’s sufferers also experience PKR-releasing stress in the course of their disease.
Lead researcher Mauro Costa-Mattioli and his team worked with mice that had had the PKR molecule genetically suppressed. In its absence, another immune molecule known as gamma interferon steps in, and that’s when something remarkable happens. It turns out this understudy molecule is actually way better at its job than PKR, increasing communication between neurons and just generally making the memory centers of the brain more efficient.
The team realized that if they could find an inhibitor that could specifically block the PKR molecule, they could confer that same memory-boosting benefit without having to worry about genetic engineering. By injecting various potential inhibitors into the mice’s stomachs, they were able to find the right molecule. Even better, since that inhibitor blocked PKR from the stomach, that should mean it’s possible to create an ingestible drug that blocks PKR.
When the researchers tested the PKR-deficient mice in a series of memory tests, those mice were able to pick up on patterns and remember them on the first try, while the other mice needed days to figure out how to solve the puzzle. The PKR-deficient mice consistently showed significantly better memory and learning abilities than their counterparts.
Of course, there’s a pretty crucial question here - is it safe to remove a key immune molecule like PKR? Well, so far, the PKR-deficient mice have shown no ill health, as other immune molecules appear more than capable to fill in for its various functions. While it’s certainly possible that there’s still a downside here, the researchers haven’t found it yet.
Right now, this could be used to treat Alzheimer’s, or just to make you remember and keep grudges for years and years.
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