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As life expectancy increases, so does the occurrence of age-related diseases. For this reason, scientists feel the need to find the cause of the cognitive decline that occurs as we age and, eventually, its cure.

Adenosine receptor A2B could prevent cognitive decline

In a recent study, researchers  discovered a protein in red blood cells that can prevent the cognitive decline that occurs as people age. The protein adenosine receptor A2B (ADORA2B) could prevent memory loss and other brain-related issues. Scientists say that ADORA2B helps release oxygen from the red blood cell. However, as we age, the amount of oxygen released lowers.

Removing ADORA2B in mice

They found that after removing the protein ADORA2B from the membrane of red blood cells in mice, the decline in the ability to recognise sounds, memory declined while inflammation in the brain increased.

To understand the role of ADORA2B in the body, scientists engineered mice without the protein and compared them to normal mice. As the mice grew older, they began to notice a difference in their mental decline. All signs of cognitive decline were worse in mice without the ADORA2B protein.

Scientists also discovered that the physiological trauma caused by a lack of oxygen was worse in the mice without the ADORA2B protein. From this, the scientists concluded that ADORA2B slows the ageing of the brain by delivering oxygen to it.

According to a study author, Dr Yang Xia from the University of Texas McGovern Medical, the role of red blood cells is to deliver oxygen to cells. However, their function in preventing age-related decline is primarily unknown. This study answers some of the questions that scientists have on cognitive decline.

For some time, oxygenation has been known to reverse cellular signs of ageing. One study found that putting elderly patients in a hyperbaric chamber where they could breathe in almost pure oxygen rejuvenated their immune cells. With this study, scientists are now curious if it is possible to maintain the levels of ADORA2B to slow down brain ageing. 

Researchers hope to do this study on humans in the future. Such experiments are usually done on mice and fruit flies because they have much shorter life spans that are easy to observe.