Quincy Bioscience was established in 2004 and started selling Prevagen, a supplement containing apoaequorin, in 2007. Vitamin D was later added to the formula, about a year prior to this writing. It was suggested that apoaequorin may improve memory by binding to excess calcium in neurons.
Apoaequorin is a protein found in the Aequorea victoria jellyfish. Apoaequorin has 3 sites where it can bind calcium. When bound to calcium, the protein luminesces. These luminescent and calcium-binding qualities attracted attention from researchers in the 1960s. In 2008, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien were awarded the Nobel prize for Chemistry for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein GFP, found in the same jellyfish with similar applications. These fluorescent proteins have been researched and used as markers of protein synthesis and calcium presence.
Calcium and Memory
Factors that affect memory include amyloid, acetylcholine, glutamate, oxidative stress, and calcium. Neurodegeneration is associated with increased calcium levels in neurons. The production of calcium binding proteins in neurons decreases with aging. Here enters interest in the calcium binding property of apoaequorin. When neurons are studied in a laboratory environment, apoaequorin binds calcium and prevents neuron death.
Apoaequorin in the Human Body
There are a few hurdles to getting a calcium binder such as apoaequorin to brain neurons. After ingestion it must first travel from the the gastrointestinal tract into the blood, then travel through the blood without binding blood calcium and cross the blood brain barrier. Apoaequorin is a protein. In the stomach, the digestive enzyme pepsin breaks down proteins, including apoaequorin. Apoaequorin is described as a rapidly digested protein. This makes the protein rather tolerable and inactive.
The Madison Memory Study is a 90 day clinical trial of Prevagen available on the Quincy Bioscience website. The control group was given rice flour as a placebo with no noted protein in it. The treatment group experienced improvements in various test scores. However, the control group also experienced significant improvements in multiple test scores.
The clinical significance of the change in test scores was not discussed, and the individuals’ Reliable Change Index was not calculated as recommended by CogState, the developer of the testing tools. Only the improvements in verbal learning and recall were reported in the published part of the Madison Memory Study. The improvement in the treatment group was identified as a 7.41% increase in words recalled. That is less than one word from a list of 12, meaning the results may not be enough to have any significant impact on daily life, if any improvement at all could be attributed to the supplement.
While apoaequorin has had desired results in a laboratory environment, the oral supplement in a human body has not proven effective. The protein apoaequorin is digested in the stomach environment. And the trial using the Prevagen supplement was shown practically insignificant in improving memory.
A computer model suggests that binding apoaequorin with cholesterol molecules might solve the problem. Cholesterol might be able to protect the apoaequorin from being digested in the stomach, help it be absorbed into the lymph system, and aid it in crossing the blood-brain barrier. It still needs to be shown that this complex can be made, and that it is able to be transported through the human body to the brain. Ultimately, it will need to be demonstrated that oral consumption of the modified complex results in improvement in memory.
Better Memory Supplements
When considering adding a nootropic to your regimen here are some factors to consider.
First, look for clinical trials that show effectiveness in humans. Research on neurons in controlled laboratory environments helps to understand how a compound may impact neuron function, but it does not take into account the challenges of delivery.
An example of the type of study to look for when considering supplementation was conducted on bacopa. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, it was found that bacopa supplementation for 12 weeks improved measures of delayed recall and Stroop task (a measurement of focus), while the placebo group remained unchanged. Depression and anxiety scores improved in the bacopa group, while the scores worsened in the placebo group. It was also noted that heart rate decreased in the bacopa treated group. These findings agree with similar findings in other studies.
Second, look up the risk for medication interaction, toxicity, and contraindications (health conditions the supplement could exacerbate).
And third, purchase from a company that standardizes its products and responsibly seeks out quality suppliers.