Hobbie-J was injected with genetic material to boost the NR2B gene which controls memory when he was an enbryo.
Hobbie-J, named after a Chinese cartoon character, can remember objects for three times longer than other rats and is better at finding its way through mazes. The rat, when it was an embryo, was injected with genetic material to boost the NR2B gene which controls memory.
The success brings hope for future dementia patients, as it is thought the gene enhancement could one day be used in a drug treatment for human brain disorders.
Dr Joe Z Tsien, who led the experiment at the Medical College of Georgia, said: “Hobbie-J can remember information for longer. It’s the equivalent of me giving you a telephone number and somehow you remembering it for an hour.
“Our study provides a solid basis for the rationale that the NR2B gene is critical to enhancing memory. That gene could be used for memory-enhancing drugs.”
Dr Tsien undertook a similar experiment on a mouse named Doogie 10 years ago, but thie latest trial shows that memory enhancement can work on different types of mammals, potentially paving the way for human use.
Although it could take decades to develop a safe drug, dementia organisations in the UK welcomed the study.
Andrew Scheuber from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust said: “This research involving rats may lead to new ways to reduce the risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s or to ameliorate dementia symptoms.
“A treatment involving NR2B may have the potential to slow the deterioration that takes place in dementia patients, but it is too soon to tell.”
However, Dr John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London, said the research would not help Alzheimer’s patients because they suffered from dying brain cells, not ineffective ones.