An Iowa State University researcher will travel to Seattle this week to discuss a promising study about memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Auriel Willette will present his findings at an annual meeting of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society. Willette has found evidence that an elevated presence of a certain protein, neuronal pentraxin-2, may slow cognitive decline and reduce brain atrophy in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I think this could give us, as researchers, a new insight into why some people might go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease or perhaps why their disease progression might more marked than those with a kinder profile,” Willette said. The protein neuronal pentraxin-2 is naturally produced in the body and regulates connections between nerve cells or neurons. Both physical and mental exercise can help induce more activity between neurons, which could in turn boost a person’s level of neuronal pentraxin-2.
“One venue of research I would like to pursue with this is looking to see if being more mentally active perhaps raises these (protein) levels, because being more mentally active tends to cause more of these connections between neurons, between these brain cells,” Willette said.
The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that by 2050, nearly 14 million Americans over 65 will have Alzheimer’s.