Death Of Aged Olfactory Neurons Reversed

Scientists were able to prevent the death of olfactory neurons in aging flies, thereby restoring innate food attraction behavior.

AsianScientist (Jul 8, 2014) – Scientists have discovered the enzymes responsible for aging in olfactory neurons and have been able to reverse the process in flies. This research has been published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Brain function, including memory and cognition, declines with age. Age-related neuronal cell death has attracted attention as one cause of this decline and many researchers have studied cell death in neurodegenerative diseases. However, little attention has been paid to cell death in the normal aging process so far.

In this study, a team led by Professor Masayuki Miura from the University of Tokyo revealed that death of selected olfactory neurons is responsible for age-related alteration of animal behavior.

Firstly, the researchers discovered that certain olfactory neurons that respond to smell of apple vinegar in the brain of aged Drosophila fruit flies were dead. Young flies flock to the location of apple vinegar by sensing its smell, but aged flies were not able to sense the smell of apple vinegar and consequently not able to locate the apple vinegar. However, when flies that were engineered so that cell death did not occur in these olfactory neurons, even aged flies were able to sense and locate apple vinegar.

This study has made it possible to describe changes in an individual’s behavior due to aging as a direct result of the cell death of specific neurons. In the future, this research may lead to an understanding of the causes of neuronal cell death in the neurodegenerative diseases and even the pathogenesis of those diseases in the normal course of aging.

The article can be found at: Chihara et al. (2014) Caspase Inhibition in Select Olfactory Neurons Restores Innate Attraction Behavior in Aged Drosophila.

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Source: University of Tokyo.
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