Each time we learn something new, our brain cells break their DNA, creating damage that the neurons must immediately repair. This process is essential to learning and memory. Cells physiologically break their DNA to allow certain important genes to be expressed.
However, as we age, our cells’ ability to repair this DNA damage weakens, leading to degeneration. In previous research into Alzheimer’s disease in mice, the researchers found that even in the presymptomatic phase of the disorder, neurons in the hippocampal region of the brain contain a large number of DNA lesions, known as double strand breaks.
The researchers now plan to carry out further studies to determine how the DNA repair system is altered with age, and how this compromises the ability of cells to cope with the continued production and repair of double strand breaks. They also plan to investigate whether certain chemicals could enhance this DNA repair capacity.