Friday, March 04, 2011

Study: Alzheimer’s risk factor tied to mothers

This is a very small sample and known not to be random. May be of some use for hypothesis formation but not otherwise

Besides age, the biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease is having a parent or other first-degree relative with the condition. A new study adds to evidence that inheriting it from your mother is much worse than inheriting it from your father.

Researchers at the University of Kansas School of Medicine recruited 21 adult children (ages 63 to 83) of Alzheimer's patients who were still "cognitively intact." They examined their brains using an MRI scanner on two occasions, two years apart. Then, they compared those brain scans with those of 32 other healthy adults in the same age group with no family history of Alzheimer's. Members of both groups had similar levels of education and cognitive performance.

Though none of the subjects exhibited any outward signs of dementia, the brain scans revealed that the 11 people whose mothers had Alzheimer's had lost significantly more gray matter over the two-year period than the 10 people whose fathers had the disease and compared with the 32 people with two healthy parents. That cell loss was especially pronounced in two areas of the brain: the left precuneus (which plays a role in episodic memory, among other functions) and the left parahippocampas gyrus (which is involved in encoding and retrieving memories).

Other regions that took a hit were "the anterior cingulate, the bilateral middle-temporal gyrus, the right hippocampus, right precuneus and posterior cingulate," according to a study in today's edition of the journal Neurology.


Apples found to prevent age-related deterioration -- in fruitflies

The anti-oxidant religion again

An apple a day could keep the undertaker away. Scientists have linked the fruit with a longer life – at least in flies. Fruit flies, which share many genes with humans despite their tiny size, were either fed normally or had an apple extract added.

Those fed normally lived an average of 50 days – five days fewer than those whose food was supplemented with apple, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports.

Not only did the flies given the apple extract live ten per cent longer, they also found it easier to walk, climb and move about as they aged. The apple extract also cut levels of various biochemicals found in older fruit flies and linked to age-related deterioration.

The researchers, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believe that the antioxidants in the extract mopped up free radicals – dangerous chemicals blamed for a host of ills, including ageing.

A spokesman for the American Chemical Society said: ‘The results, obtained with fruit flies – stand-ins for humans in hundreds of research projects each year – bolster similar findings on apple antioxidants in other animal tests.’

In another study, researchers who quizzed thousands of women about their diets found that those who regularly ate apples were 20 per cent less likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes.

The apple’s genetic code has recently been cracked, paving the way for crunchier, juicier and healthier fruits.

Researchers are already using the information to grow red-fleshed apples bursting with antioxidants credited with keeping eyes and joints healthy and warding off heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

Apples that suppress appetite could also be in the pipeline, with the first ‘extra-healthy’ apples on supermarket shelves within just four to five years.

The decoding of the apple’s DNA by a team of almost 100 scientists from five countries has also shed new light on its roots. The research suggests that around 65million years ago, the time when a comet is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs, the plant that would eventually give rise to the apple tree underwent a massive and rapid genetic change, in which many of its genes were duplicated.

The extra genes allowed the apple to adapt to tougher conditions and sent it along a different evolutionary path from peaches, strawberries and other related fruit.


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