AMES — A new study by an Iowa State University researcher shows a protein may slow memory loss and reduce brain atrophy caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Auriel Willette, a researcher in food science and human nutrition, found evidence that higher levels of a little-studied protein called neuronal pentraxin 2 may slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients by improving the connections between neurons in the brain.
“Neuronal pentraxin 2 remodels existing synapses communicating between neurons,” Willette said. “It also clears away old cells or digested proteins.”
He compared the protein to a bulldozer that removes debris to make room for new buildings.
About 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, but that number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The progressive disease is the leading cause of dementia.