Treat cognitive disorders in Alzheimer’s with oxytocin
More and more people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s and the treatment options are still very limited. Researchers at the Tokyo University of Science have now pursued a new approach against the neurodegenerative disease: They investigated the effects of the love hormone oxytocin.
In Alzheimer’s disease, the nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and the connections between them degenerate, which leads to severe memory loss, cognitive deficits, a deterioration in motor skills and communication, explains the research team. In the current study on mice, however, it had been shown that the ability to transmit signals can be restored by oxytocin. The results of the study were published in the specialist magazine “Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communication”.
Declining synaptic plasticity in Alzheimer’s
Deposits of the protein amyloid-β in the brain are considered to be a major cause of the impaired signal transmission in Alzheimer’s. The researchers explain that the increasing accumulation of amyloid-β in the hippocampus – the most important learning and memory center of the brain – causes a decrease in the signal transmission potential of the neurons there. In particular, the so-called “synaptic plasticity”, which describes the ability of the synapses to adapt to an increase or decrease in signal activity, is clearly decreasing.
Oxytocin important for learning and memory performance
The research team led by Professor Akiyoshi Saitoh from Tokyo University of Science has now investigated the effect of the love hormone oxytocin on the signal transmission potential in Alzheimer’s. “Recently it was found that oxytocin is involved in regulating learning and memory performance” and so far “no study has yet looked at the effect of oxytocin on amyloid-β-induced cognitive impairments,” said Professor Saitoh.
Restored synaptic plasticity
First, the research team examined in studies on the brains of mice to what extent amyloid-β impaired the signaling ability of the neurons or the synaptic plasticity. Here a clear decline was confirmed with increased amyloid-beta deposits. “However, when the brain was additionally perfused with oxytocin, the signaling ability increased, which indicates that oxytocin can reverse the impairment of synaptic plasticity caused by amyloid-β,” the researchers report.
In a next step, the researchers blocked the oxytocin receptors in the mouse brains to see whether the love hormone had its positive effect even without being bound to the receptor. “As expected, when the receptors were blocked, oxytocin could not reverse the effects of amyloid-β, which shows that these receptors are essential for the effects of oxytocin,” the research team continued.
Corrected harmful effects of amyloid-β
In addition, the scientists were able to demonstrate that “oxytocin itself has no influence on the synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, but is somehow able to revise the harmful effects of amyloid-β.” For the first time in the current study, the detection was successful that oxytocin can reverse the impairments in the hippocampus caused by amyloid-β – at least in mice, emphasizes Professor Saitoh.
Hope for new therapeutic options
The current study shows that oxytocin could be a new therapeutic option for the treatment of memory loss related to cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, emphasizes Professor Saitoh. But this is “only a first step, and further research in vivo in animal models and then in humans must be carried out before sufficient knowledge can be gathered to use oxytocin in a drug for Alzheimer’s.” Nevertheless, the researchers assume that that a promising new way of developing drugs for Alzheimer’s treatment has been opened here. (fp)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters
- Junpei Takahashia, Daisuke Yamada, Yudai Ueta, Takashi Iwai, Eri Koga, Mitsuo Tanabe, Jun-Ichiro Oka Akiyoshi Saitoh: Oxytocin reverses Aβ-induced impairment of hippocampal synaptic plasticity in mice; in: Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Volume 528, Issue 1 (veröffentlicht 12.07.2020), sciencedirect.com
- Tokyo University of Science: “Love hormone” oxytocin could be used to treat cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s (veröffentlicht 20.07.2020), eurekalert
This article contains general information only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.