Researchers at MIT, led by Nobel Prize winner Susumu Tonegawa, have conducted a study of the brain affected by Alzheimer's using mice. Two groups of mice- a healthy control group and a group given Alzheimer's-like symptoms- were placed in a box and subjected to a mild electric shock. When the healthy mice were placed in the box a second time, they remembered their prior negative experience and showed a normal fear response. When the mice affected by Alzheimer's symptoms were placed in the box again, they quickly forgot the previous shock and showed no signs of anxiety.
Scientists then stimulated certain cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory, with a special blue light. When these cells were stimulated, the mice with Alzheimer's symptoms recovered their memories of the electric shock. When they were placed in the box again, they showed the same signs of fear as the healthy group.
Tonegawa's group believes these treatments are boosting neurons to regrow connections with other cells. Their groundbreaking study has transformed the way scientists have viewed Alzheimer's disease. While the technique is still far from being safe for human trials, it offers very promising results for future treatments. While these treatments are still a long way from being fully developed, this study's findings bring hope that could change the lives of the millions of people worldwide who are suffering from dementia.