A naturally occurring compound called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) has already been reported to help open up chromatin. For the new study, the Johns Hopkins researchers tested whether two weeks of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, which causes the body to naturally produce high levels of BHB, could alleviate symptoms in mice genetically engineered to have a Kabuki-like condition. The diet has long been known to have an impact on brain activity, particularly as a treatment for severe seizure disorders.
In their experiments, the researchers compared mice given the ketogenic diet to mice fed a normal diet and to those injected with BHB. Compared with their untreated counterparts, both groups of treated mice grew more new brain cells in an area called the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus, which is associated with the ability to learn and form new memories. They also performed nearly as well as non-Kabuki mice on a test known as the Morris water maze, which assesses the rodents' ability to remember the location of an underwater platform on which to rest during a maze exercise.
Physicians generally consider the intellectual disability that accompanies disorders like Kabuki syndrome to be irreversible, Bjornsson notes. "But we now know that new brain cells continue to form throughout our lives. If Kabuki syndrome and related disorders cause fewer neurons to be made in adulthood, stimulating neuronal growth may be an effective strategy for treating intellectual disability," he says.
Full text: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219161854.htm