In a surprise re-appearance, the regulatory gene repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor (REST) has been found to re-emerge in the aging brain and protect it from a variety of stressors. It was previously thought that REST is expressed only in the developing brain, where it represses neuronal genes by modifying chromatin structure. A new study led by Bruce Yanker and colleagues at Harvard Medical School, published on March 20 in Nature, directly correlates REST expression in the aging human brain to preservation of cognitive abilities, even in presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. In an in-depth study spanning neural cell lines, primary neuronal cultures, C. elegans and REST conditional knockout mice, the investigators demonstrated that absence or downregulation of REST leads to neuronal death in the face of stressors, while upregulation of REST rescues neurons. Interestingly, abnormal REST expression was also found in other neurodegenerative diseases involving dementia, including frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and dementia with Lewy bodies. Click here to read more.
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