Research findings of Heidelberg neurobiologists could lead to new treatment approaches for anxiety disorders
Increasing the level of a certain DNA-modified enzyme in the brain significantly improves cognitive ability. The discovery was made by the research team led by Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences of Heidelberg University.
Mouse experiments showed that the Dnmt3a2 protein can boost memory performance in the animals. Because this protein also affects fear memory and the ability to erase bad memories, the researchers hope these findings can be used to develop new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of anxiety. The results of the research were published in the journal “Molecular Psychiatry”.
In an earlier study, the Heidelberg scientists learned that there are reduced levels of Dnmt3a2 protein in the brains of older mice. When the elderly animals were injected with viruses that produce this protein, their memory capacity improved.
“Now we have found that increasing the Dnmt3a2 level in the brains of younger mice also boosts their cognitive ability,” explains Prof. Bading. In a number of different long-term memory tests, including classic Pavlovian conditioning, the scientists were able to demonstrate that mice with more Dnmt3a2 on board performed considerably better.
Dnmt3a2 is an epigenetic regulator that chemically modifies the genetic material, the DNA. The result is a change in the production rates of specific proteins. The activation of gene transcription, in which genetic information is transferred to RNA, and the subsequent synthesis of new proteins not only play a critical role in memory consolidation but also in memory erasure.
The Heidelberg neuroscientists therefore also carried out “erasure” experiments using similar methods as in confrontational therapy in patients. This therapy is used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and aims to interrupt or even completely erase disturbing associations. “We found that mice with a higher Dnmt3a2 level in the brain were able to erase the association between a specific place and a painful stimulus with far greater efficiency,” explains Bading.
The findings of the Heidelberg neuroscientists give valuable new impetus to the treatment of cognitive impairment. “They could be used to develop new medications to improve memory in senile dementia or in patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” continues Prof. Bading.
The researchers also see the potential to develop new treatments for anxiety disorders. New medications that increase the production or activity of the enzyme could be combined with confrontational therapy. However, Prof. Bading also raised concerns since the new results open the door for possible misuse in healthy individuals to improve their mental processes and intellectual capability.
A. Oliveira, T. Hemstedt, H. Freitag, H. Bading: Dnmt3a2: a hub for enhancing cognitive functions. Psychiatry, 2015 Nov 24. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.175
Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading
Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences
Phone +49 6221 54-8218
Communications and Marketing
Phone +49 6221 54-2311
Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine