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Researchers investigate impact of brain protein on memory

Canterbury researchers investigating impact of brain protein on memory loss

July 18, 2014

University of Canterbury researchers are investigating a brain protein which may impact on the memory of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory problems are common in many diseases of the brain and they are the hallmark of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 48,000 New Zealanders had dementia in 2011 and the number is expected to triple by 2050. The financial cost of treating dementia in New Zealand in 2011 was $954 million. University of Canterbury PhD researcher Susan Rapley says there is no effective treatment for memory loss for those with Alzheimer’s.

“This is partly because we need to know more about how molecular problems in the brain link up with the memory symptoms. A better understanding of what is happening within the brain, especially in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, will help guide new treatment options. Currently, there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s.

“Our research group is looking at the brain protein called C-type Natriuretic Peptide, or CNP, because we think it may have a role in affecting a person’s memory. We do know that CNP is produced in key regions of the brain strongly associated with memory, but do not know specifically what function it serves.

“Before we can investigate CNP in Alzheimer’s disease, we need to determine its involvement with memory. We are investigating this by measuring CNP in the brain when memory is either stimulated or interfered with. If CNP changes in the brain according to changes in memory, this would suggest it is an important part of the biological processes of memory formation.

“So far, our results show that CNP increases in the brain’s memory network during learning conditions. This appears to be due to a change in the way CNP is metabolised.

“This suggests we may be on the right track. If CNP does turn out to be involved in memory, this might stimulate future research into the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases with similar memory problems.”

Rapley was a co-winner in the university’s annual Tweet your Thesis event. Students who entered were allowed only six tweets to describe their thesis work in less than 840 characters.

Her project is being supervised by University of Canterbury’s psychology professor John Dalrymple-Alford.

ENDS

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