A team of Italian researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome have discovered that this molecule, called CREB1, is triggered by “caloric restriction” (low caloric diet) in the brain of mice. They found that CREB1 activates many genes linked to longevity and to the proper functioning of the brain. This work was led by Giovambattista Pani, researcher at the Institute of General Pathology, Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome, directed by Professor Achille Cittadini, in collaboration with Professor Claudio Grassi of the Institute of Human Physiology. The research appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1, for example through new drugs, so to keep the brain young without the need of a strict diet,” Dr Pani said.
Caloric restriction means the animals can only eat up to 70 percent of the food they consume normally, and is a known experimental way to extend life, as seen in many experimental models. Typically, caloric-restricted mice do not become obese and don't develop diabetes; moreover they show greater cognitive performance and memory, are less aggressive. Furthermore they do not develop, if not much later, Alzheimer's disease and with less severe symptoms than in overfed animals.