Normal Brain vs. Brain With Dementia

YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A brain specialist to notice certain differences in images of a healthy older person’s brain compared to that of someone with dementia. Narrowed, depleted folds on the brain’s surface, the presence of blotchy plaques, twisted fibers and significant shrinkage are clearly visible. What you can’t see is how brain changes like these affect how people’s minds work.

In a program from the National Press Foundation and funded by AARP, “Understanding the Latest on Dementia Issues,” journalists heard from a spectrum of dementia experts, including researchers, gerontologists, family caregivers and a brilliant engineer who described her personal journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In addition, a leading neuroscientist detailed how normal brain aging is very different than changes arising from dementia and not something to be feared.

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Call it Mighty Mouse: Breakthrough leaps Alzheimer’s research hurdle

University of California, Irvine researchers have made it possible to learn how key human brain cells respond to Alzheimer’s, vaulting a major obstacle in the quest to understand and one day vanquish it. By developing a way for human brain immune cells known as microglia to grow and function in mice, scientists now have an unprecedented view of crucial mechanisms contributing to the disease.

The team, led by Mathew Blurton-Jones, associate professor of neurobiology & behavior, said the breakthrough also holds promise for investigating many other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. The details of their study have just been published in the journal Neuron.

The scientists dedicated four years to devising the new rodent model, which is considered “chimeric.” The word, stemming from the mythical Greek monster Chimera that was part goat, lion and serpent, describes an organism containing at least two different sets of DNA.

Full story at Science Daily

Older Parents May Have Better Behaved Kids

Many people wait until they’re older to have children, and that decision can raise the risk of problems like infertility and genetic abnormalities. But new research suggests there may be at least one benefit to having children later in life.

The study found that kids with at least one older parent were less likely to be defiant rule-breakers or physically aggressive.

“Older parents-to-be may be reassured that their age is not necessarily a negative factor with respect to behavioral problems in their child,” said study author Marielle Zondervan-Zwijnenburg. She’s a post-doctoral researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

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Can scientists find the formula for ‘better aging?’

Some researchers hope to find the secret of keeping old age at bay and enjoying eternal youth instead. However, a team of scientists from Southern California is looking for a different “recipe” — that of better aging.

“To drink from the fountain of youth, you have to figure out where the fountain of youth is and understand what the fountain of youth is doing,” says Nick Graham, who is an assistant professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering in Los Angeles.

However, this is not what Graham and his colleague from USC are trying to achieve. As Graham himself notes: “We’re doing the opposite; we’re trying to study the reasons cells age so that we might be able to design treatments for better aging.”

Full story at Medical News Today

Exploring genetic ‘dark matter,’ researchers gain new insights into autism and stroke

With its elegant double helix and voluminous genetic script, DNA has become the of darling of nucleic acids. Yet, it is not all powerful. In order for DNA to realize its potential — for genes to become proteins — it must first be transcribed into RNA, a delicate molecule that requires intense care and guidance.

“Gene expression is a lot more complicated than turning on a switch,” says Robert B. Darnell, the Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor. “There’s a whole layer of regulation that alters both the quality and quantity of a protein that’s produced from a gene. And much of it happens at the level of RNA.”

In the brain, RNA’s job as a gene tuner is vital to ensuring that the right proteins are made at the right time; and when this process go awry, the consequences can be serious. Darnell’s lab recently found that the brain’s response to stroke depends on the precise regulation of a subtype of RNA; and they have also learned that mutations affecting gene regulation underlie some cases of autism spectrum disorder.

Full story at Science Daily

Could Extra Weight Weaken Your Brain?

Extra pounds and a wider waistline won’t do your brain any favors as you get older, a new study suggests.

In fact, obesity appears to accelerate brain aging by a decade or more, the researchers added.

People with a wide waist circumference and higher body mass index (BMI) were more likely to have a thinner cerebral cortex, a condition that has previously been linked to a decline in brain function.

“This association was stronger in those aged less than 65 years,” said lead researcher Michelle Caunca, an epidemiology researcher at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Overall, this suggests that weight status, especially before older age, is related to less gray matter later in life.”

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‘Failure to Launch’: Poll Finds Many Older Teens Still Too Reliant on Parents

Sarah Clark was happy to get the call from her college teen, but couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“My kid called from college and said, ‘I’m sick, what should I do?'” Clark said. “I’m like, what do you mean what do you do? You have a drug store down the street. Go have at it.”

A new poll co-directed by Clark found that there are a lot of parents in the same boat.

Most parents think they are doing enough to prepare their teens for adulthood, but they’re wincing a bit as the time comes for their young to leave the nest, the survey reports.

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Researchers get a handle on how to control blood sugar after stroke

Hyperglycemia, or high levels of glucose, is common in patients with acute ischemic stroke and is associated with worse outcomes compared to normal blood sugar levels. Animal studies also pointed to an effect of high blood sugar in worsening stroke injury. Stroke experts have debated whether intensive glucose management after acute ischemic stroke leads to better outcomes but a new study in JAMA finds that aggressive methods are not better than standard approaches. The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“After decades of uncertainty about how to manage blood sugar in acute stroke patients we finally have strong clinical evidence that aggressive lowering does not improve patient outcome,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., NINDS director.

The Stroke Hyperglycemia Insulin Network Effort (SHINE) study, a large, multisite clinical study led by Karen C. Johnston, M.D., professor of neurology and Associate Vice President of Clinical & Translational Research at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, compared two commonly used strategies for glucose control in ischemic stroke patients. More than 1100 patients underwent intensive glucose management, which required the use of intravenous delivery of insulin to bring blood sugar levels down to 80-130 mg/dL, or standard glucose control using insulin shots, which aimed to get glucose below 180 mg/dL, for up to 72 hours. After 90 days, the patients were evaluated for outcomes, including disability, neurological function, and quality of life.

Full story at Science Daily

Widespread aspirin use despite few benefits, high risks

Medical consensus once supported daily use of low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke in people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). But in 2018, three major clinical trials cast doubt on that conventional wisdom, finding few benefits and consistent bleeding risks associated with daily aspirin use. Taken together, the findings led the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to change clinical practice guidelines earlier this year, recommending against the routine use of aspirin in people older than 70 years or people with increased bleeding risk who do not have existing cardiovascular disease.

Aspirin use is widespread among groups at risk for harm including older adults and adults with peptic ulcers — painful sores in the lining of the stomach that are prone to bleeding that affect about one in ten people. In a research report published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) report on the extent to which Americans 40 years old and above use aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Full story at Science Daily

Alzheimer’s: Common gene explains why some drugs fail

New insights into a specific gene variant may help to explain why some Alzheimer’s drugs work in certain people but may fail in others. The findings call for a more personalized approach to drug testing.

Earlier this year, a study led by Dr. Kinga Szigeti, Ph.D., who is the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at the University of Buffalo, NY, found a key gene that helped explain why some Alzheimer’s drugs showed promise in animal models but failed in humans.

The gene is called CHRFAM7A, and it is specific to humans, although only 75% of people have it. It is a so-called fusion gene — that is, a fusion between a gene that encodes a receptor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and a type of enzyme called a kinase.

Full story at Medical News Today