In this striking new development, a “cold-shock” protein present in swimmers’ blood is showing promising results in slowing and even reversing the progression of dementia in mice.
Pertaining to the hibernation capacity in all mammals when exposed to cold temperatures, the study ties in to knowledge we already possess on how cooling body temperature will often protect the mind. For example, people who experience a head injury are often cooled during surgical procedures.
While it is not yet fully understood, researchers know that even though some brain connections are lost during hibernation, they’re fully restored upon the mammals’ awakening in the spring. For those with Alzheimer’s disease, the lost connections lead to confusion, lack of memory, behavioral challenges and changes in moods, and much more – and to date, once lost, can’t be restored.
Within the study, both healthy mice and the ones with Alzheimer’s were cooled to a level of hypothermia. Rewarming the healthy mice showed a restoration of synapses that the Alzheimer’s mice did not experience – thought to be as a result of “cold-shock” protein RBM3 that was evident in only the healthy mice. Because of this, researchers surmise that RBM3 may be the key to regaining functionality of brain connections.
During the time of the research, RBM3 had not yet been detected in humans, leading researchers to locate volunteer winter swimmers, who were already becoming hypothermic on a regular basis and could help researchers see whether the cold prompted the production of RBM3. The effect: a substantial portion of the volunteers were found to have high amounts of RBM3 inside their blood.
You will find inherent dangers in overexposure to the cold, however. It raises heart rate and blood pressure, slows responses, and increases breathing rate, and is too risky for researchers to recommend for seniors with dementia. The goal is to develop a drug to stimulate RBM3 production in humans and to determine its impact on dementia, in particular, to delay or avoid the disease.
“If you slowed the progress of dementia by even a couple of years on a whole population, that would have an enormous impact economically and health-wise,” explains Professor Giovanna Mallucci, head of the UK Dementia Research Institute’s Centre in the University of Cambridge.
At Atlanta Home Care Partners, we look forward to learning more about this along with other promising research to greatly help in slowing the progression of dementia, and we are always here with trusted, skilled and creative dementia care in the comfort of home. Call us at 404-228-0103 to learn more about our in-home senior care in Atlanta and surrounding areas.