The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

August 29, 2013

Scientists find clue to age-related memory loss

WASHINGTON — Scientists have found a compelling clue in the quest to learn what causes age-related memory problems, and to one day be able to tell if those misplaced car keys are just a senior moment or an early warning of something worse.

Wednesday’s report offers evidence that age-related memory loss really is a distinct condition from pre-Alzheimer’s — and offers a hint that what we now consider the normal forgetfulness of old age might eventually be treatable.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center examined brains, young and old ones, donated from people who died without signs of neurologic disease. They discovered that a certain gene in a specific part of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, quits working properly in older people. It produces less of a key protein.

That section of the brain, called the dentate gyrus, has long been suspected of being especially vulnerable to aging. Importantly, it’s a different neural neighborhood than where Alzheimer’s begins to form.

But it’s circumstantial evidence that having less of that protein, named RbAp48, affects memory loss in older adults. So the researchers took a closer look at mice, which become forgetful as they age in much the same way that people do.

Sure enough, cutting levels of the protein made healthy young rodents lose their way in mazes and perform worse on other memory tasks just like old mice naturally do.

More intriguing, the memory loss was reversible: Boosting the protein made forgetful old mice as sharp as the youngsters again, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“It’s the best evidence so far” that age-related memory loss isn’t the same as early Alzheimer’s, said Nobel laureate Dr. Eric Kandel, who led the Columbia University team.

And since some people make it to 100 without showing much of a cognitive slowdown, the work begs another question: “Is that normal aging, or is it a deterioration that we’re allowing to occur?” Kandel said.

“As we want to live longer and stay engaged in a cognitively complex world, I think even mild age-related memory decline is meaningful,” added Columbia neurologist Dr. Scott Small, a senior author of the study. “It opens up a whole avenue of investigation to now try to identify interventions.”

This is early-stage research that will require years of additional work to confirm, cautioned Dr. Molly Wagster of the National Institute on Aging, who wasn’t involved with the report.

But Wagster said the findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting “that we’re not all on the road to Alzheimer’s disease” after we pass a certain age.

For example, other researchers have found that connections between neurons in other parts of the brain weaken with normal aging, making it harder but not impossible to retrieve memories. In contrast, Alzheimer’s kills neurons.

How does Wednesday’s research fit? Many pathways make up a smoothly functioning memory, and that protein plays a role in turning a short-term memory — like where you left those car keys — into a longer-term one, Kandel explained.

Some good news: Scientists already know that exercise makes the dentate gyrus — that age-targeted spot in the hippocampus — function better, Small said. He’s also studying if nutrition might make a difference.

 

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Lower-income teens don’t get enough sleep

    African-American high school students and boys in low- to middle-income families reported short, fragmented sleep, and that could play a role in their health risks, researchers reported Monday.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Health agencies try to counter mumps outbreak

    Health agencies trying to stem a large and growing mumps outbreak are advising college, school and even day care leaders to make sure central Ohio students are immunized and to separate them from those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who are infected.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • An ocean of broken hearts

    Lee Byung-soo says he knew, when he saw his 15-year-old son’s body in the tent. It could not have been more horrifically obvious. But he wanted so much for him to be alive.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biden conferring with Ukranian leader over what to do
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday for talks with Ukraine’s embattled interim leaders as Russia’s top diplomat blamed Washington for instigating the crisis that threatens to escalate into armed conflict between the two former Soviet republics.
     

    April 22, 2014

  • Panel’s role in Cleveland police ruling questioned

    A lawyer for families of men killed in separate 2012 shootings by Cleveland police — including a 137-bullet chase under federal investigation — is questioning a grand jury’s role in a recent county prosecutor’s ruling.

    April 21, 2014

  • Gender gap under Ohio governor nearly $10 an hour

    A newspaper investigation has found the average pay gap between men and women in the offices of four of Ohio’s five elected statewide officials has grown to as much as almost $10 an hour, as it’s shrunk to under a dollar across the rest of state government.

    April 21, 2014

  • OBIT Rubin Carter Box_Lind.jpg Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76

    Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, died Sunday. He was 76.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • MAG-kramer25p-Janae-O-Neal.jpg Kramer the labradoodle soothes students, staff at middle school

    Once upon a time there was a dog that went to middle school.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ohio sees record high heroin overdose deaths

    A record number of Ohioans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2012, the state Department of Health said as it released the newest available figures for a problem that’s been called an epidemic and a public health crisis.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Ohio’s jobless rate dips to 6.1 percent in March

    Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped in March to 6.1 percent, its lowest level in six years, according to state job figures released Friday.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video