Researchers with the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered an enzyme that may protect mice brains against stresses believed to contribute to energy loss. This protective enzyme, called SIRT3, is located in the cells mitochondria. It is believed that as we age or develop neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers the brain cells may not produce sufficient energy to remain fully functional.
Using a new animal model, the researchers took a look at whether they could aid neurons in resisting energy-depleting stress caused by neurotoxins and other factors.
The findings suggest that bolstering mitochondrial function and stress resistance by increasing SIRT3 levels may offer a promising therapeutic target for protecting against age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.
They discovered that neurons could be protected against stress through use of a gene therapy technology to increase levels of SIRT3 in neurons.
Mice that ran on a wheel increased their levels of SIRT3. Specifically, running wheel exercise increased the amount of SIRT3 in neurons of normal mice and protected them against degeneration. As for the mice lacking the enzyme, the running failed to protect the neurons. The mice models that didnt produce SIRT3 became highly sensitive to stress when exposed to neurotoxins that cause neurodegeneration and epileptic seizures.