Amazing news rocked the snail community this week when scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston discovered that snails might be able to reverse memory loss. Perfect for those gastropods that chose to go back to school later in life.
The human applications of the study could be even more astounding. Such crippling diseases Alzheimer’s might not be as debilitating as was once thought. It could be possible to transfer the information found in the snails learning patterns and brain development to humans, not only stopping memory loss, but even reversing the mental degradation.
“The human brain has 10 billion nerve cells whereas the snail has only 10,000. But the reactions in individual human brain cells and snail brain cells are essentially the same,” said Dr. John Byrne, senior author of the study and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School. “Therefore, discoveries about memory mechanisms in the snail can provide insights into memory mechanisms in humans.”
Dr. Byrne’s team first noticed the snail’s unique brain patterns in 2012. What they found was that the brain of the snail was able to learn at certain predictable times. If they were given information during this time, they were able to retain it more quickly and easily, allowing new memories to be created.
While being able to determine the optimal learning time in humans is a few years away, it might be possible to use this utterly harmless, drug-free method to combat the slow erosion of memory due to ageing, dementia, senility, and Alzheimer’s. It could provide hope for Alzheimer’s patients that will help them retain more of their mind without the use of medication. This could severely limit the harmful side-effects that come with the typical medication regiment used to treat Alzheimer’s.
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the number of cases of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by the year 2050, meaning new treatments are desperately needed. This could provide a reasonable alternative to medication.
“Although much works remains to be done, we have demonstrated the feasibility of our new strategy to help overcome memory deficits,” said Dr. Byrne in a press release. “If results are positive, they may eventually lead to an alternative, non-drug related treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, or a highly effective hybrid treatment.
“A combination might be very beneficial. And it could allow the use of lower doses of drugs and thereby reduce side effects of drug.”
Video report on the study: