KC scientist manipulates memories in animals, gives Overland Park Alzheimer’s patient hope

Melodie and her husband, Jerry, live with their dog, Beamer.
Melodie and her husband, Jerry, live with their dog, Beamer.(Hendrickson family)
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 3:51 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A scientist at The Stower’s Institute in Kansas City has been able to manipulate memories in animals.

His groundbreaking research could have major implications for how Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are treated.

Dr. Kausik Si genetically altered snails, fruit flies and mice making them more forgetful. The animals did not remember where to find food, even though they had previously learned it.

Additionally, different genetic alterations improved memories in fruit flies.

“These animals are quite remarkable. If I take 100 flies about 10-20 percent remember where to go. Now, 80 percent will have a memory which is quite remarkable,” said Dr. Kausik Si.

The research now continues in mice.

Research questions old theories

For decades, scientists and doctors believed protein clumping in the brain was bad.

But Dr. Si questioned if that was accurate as we learn many patients without dementia symptoms or memory problems have protein clumping as well.

“Maybe not all clumping is bad. Some are bad, some are not doing anything, and some are beneficial,” Si said. “In terms of treatment, if the treatment removes all clumps. Maybe you just aren’t removing the bad ones you are removing some of the good ones.”

The fruit flies with better memory retention were modified to have more protein clumping in their brains.

The animals genetically modified to have less protein clumping were all more forgetful. This may explain why Alzheimer’s medications to date aren’t what families and patients pray and hope for.

“Rethink the whole paradigm how you thought about this disease. I’m super excited about it!” he said.

Hope for patients

Around one in nine people over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

It’s a cruel disease robbing people of their memories and their ability to think clearly.

Melodie Hendrickson of Overland Park, Kansas, was recently diagnosed. Her father also had the disease, and she watched him lose his ability to remember birthdays. He became paranoid about people stealing his money. His life ended with a rapid decline inside a nursing home.

Right now, Melodie is doing what she can to fight the disease with lifestyle changes and medications. The day we met her, the names of her prescriptions eluded her.

“My brain, I’m thinking very slowly,” she revealed. “The next day, I get a good night’s sleep or whatever and I’m fine. It’s really odd.”

Melodie and her husband, Jerry, live with their dog, Beamer, who is clearly attached to Melodie the most. There’s joy and happiness in their lives but also concern about the future.

“It’s difficult to watch someone who’s not being able to communicate, communicate as well with you,” Jerry said of his wife’s condition. “And to know that at this point there’s not much can be done about it.”

The Hendricksons say they are grateful for all of the research being done which could lead to better medications.

Melodie is like many patients holding out hope for Lecanemab. That drug is in clinical trials, which have shown promise.

The company is on track to apply for FDA approval by March 2023.