Mental decline seems to be an inevitable sign of aging, but a new discovery may change all that.
Researchers have discovered a protein in red blood cells that has the power to prevent memory loss and other age-related issues in the brain. Tests in mice found that removing the protein adenosine receptor A2B (ADORA2B) from red blood cells triggers faster declines in memory, the ability to recognize sounds and leads to higher levels of inflammation in the brain. The researchers engineered a group of mice to lack ADORA2B in their blood. They compared these animals to normal mice, examining their mental decline as they got older. Results reveal all of the typical signs of cognitive decline — poor memory, hearing problems, and brain inflammation — were worse in mice without the ADORA2B protein.
What is the connection? How does ADORA2B help prevent age-related cognitive impairment? The key is oxygen. ADORA2B helps to move oxygen from the red blood cells into the organs, including the brain. Good oxygen profusion is essential to memory and other higher brain functions. This is exactly why stroke victims often face cognitive impairment if they survive because the brain cells are starved of oxygen. In the mice that lacked the protein, blood was still flowing to the brain, but it was still being severely starved of precious oxygen.
Due to these findings, scientists conclude that ADORA2B slows the natural aging of the brain by delivering oxygen vital to its normal functioning.
“Red blood cells have an irreplaceable function to deliver oxygen to maintain bioenergetics of every single cell within our body. However, their function in age-related cognition and hearing function remains largely unknown. Our findings reveal that the red blood cell ADORA2B signaling cascade combats early onset of age-related decline in cognition, memory, and hearing by promoting oxygen delivery in mice and immediately highlight multiple new rejuvenating targets,” says study author Dr. Yang Xia from the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in a media release.
The results suggest that interventions that can keep the level of ADORA2B high in the bloodstream as people age could slow or prevent the onset of age-related dementia.