‘REST’ responsible for healthy brain development

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have discovered that a brain protein referred to as REST, active predominately during foetal brain development, switches back on in later life in healthy older adults, and acts as a ‘stress response mechanism’, which may protect the brain from neurodegeneration.

On the flip side, they also noticed that REST is missing in critical brain regions of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

This research finding was published in the Journal Nature on March 19. The researchers measured REST levels in the brains of young adults (20-35 years) and older adults (73-106 years), none of whom had Alzheimer’s disease. They found that REST levels were low in the younger adults but elevated in older adults. They then measured the REST levels in the brains of age matched older adults with either mild cognitive impairment of Alzheimer’s disease and found that REST levels were negligible in certain areas of the brain, including the hippocampus.

“Our work raises the possibility that the abnormal protein aggregates associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases may not be sufficient to cause dementia; you may also need a failure of the brain’s stress response system,” said Professor Bruce Yanker from Harvard Medical School.

This research provides more insight into how Alzheimer’s disease progresses, however a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind how REST works and is activated is still required.

Alzheimer’s Australia National Research Manager, Dr Chris Hatherly said:

"This was an extremely comprehensive and well-designed study that will open the door to new approaches for investigating dementia. Whether it will translate to new treatments is yet to be seen however – at best we could hope to see this kind of basic science discovery translate into new treatments or interventions within 10 or 15 years."



Please login using your credentials recieved by email when you register.

I forgot my password | Resend activation e-mail