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Postmedia, Cell - Discovery could lead memory-enhancing pill out of realm of science fiction

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Published: 16 Dec 2011

You're over the hill and — along with everything else — your memory is slipping. Your doctor gives you a pill and, suddenly, you can remember your high school locker combination. Science fiction? Maybe not.

You're over the hill and — along with everything else — your memory is slipping. Your doctor gives you a pill and, suddenly, you can remember your high school locker combination.

Science fiction? Maybe not. New research out of the U.S. holds out the hope of a superhuman assist for failing memories — and a badly-needed new therapy for Alzheimer's patients.

The study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston — led by neuroscientist and former McGill University postdoctoral fellow Mauro Costa-Mattioli with contributions from a couple of Canadians — found suppressing a molecule called PKR in the brains of mice improved the rodents' memory function and learning abilities.

PKR is an immune molecule previously known to act as a signal to the brain of viral infections, Costa-Mattioli said.

The study was particularly interesting because the suggestion of an interaction between PKR and gamma interferon for improved memory and learning abilities had never been made before, said Kresimir Krnjevic, a professor emeritus in neurophysiology at McGill. Krnjevic contributed to the study, published in the Dec. 9 issue of the journal Cell, in a supporting role, giving advice and electrophysiological explanations for some of the findings.

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