Berries of all shapes and forms are making the news on a regular basis as scientists tap into the potential health benefits held therewithin.
Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the US Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, suggest this week that compounds found in blueberries could reverse existing short-term memory losses.
The findings were presented by Gemma Casadesus, a graduate research associate working with James A. Joseph, head of the Neuroscience Laboratory of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston.
According to ARS, the researchers found an increased birth rate of brain cells in the hippocampus - a brain region responsible for memory - in aged rats fed blueberry supplementation equal to one cup daily in humans for two months, when compared to non-supplemented rats.
The hippocampus is one of the few areas in the brain that continuously replace neurons through a process called neurogenesis, a term that encompasses proliferation, survival and differentiation of precursor cells.
In addition, these changes were associated with improved memory performance in the blueberry-supplemented rats. The scientists are to carry out a follow-up study by looking at the interaction of blueberry compounds with the molecular mechanisms responsible for the modulation of neurogenesis.
In tandem with these findings, ARS plant physiologist Freddi A. Hammerschlag and ARS plant geneticist Lisa J. Rowland have been working to develop blueberry cultivars endowed with cold tolerance. Such hardiness is ultimately hoped to boost US blueberry growers' current 350 million pound annual output.
The two plant scientists, working at the ARS Fruit Laboratory, recently discovered a system to regenerate blueberry plants from tissue taken from the commercially important cultivar, Bluecrop. Regeneration is a laboratory technique used to produce whole plants from single cells that have been pegged as genetically attractive.
Further information about the blueberry research can be accessed in the November issue of Agricultural Research magazine.