Thursday May 24, 2018

Brain cell density does not decay with increasing age, say researchers

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New York: Researchers at University of Illinois Chicago have shown that while the brain shrinks with age, cell density remains preserved throughout the brain, not just in specific regions. They arrived at this discovery with the help of new ultra-high-field magnetic resonance images (MRI).

The findings also suggest that the maintenance of brain cell density may protect against cognitive impairment as the brain gradually shrinks in normal aging.

Neuroscientists have long known that the brain shrinks with age, but for a long time they thought the loss in volume was associated with a loss of brain cells. That was disproved by studies that showed it is the neurons themselves that shrink, while the number of cells remain the same in normal older adults.

The images were created by a powerful 9.4-Tesla MRI, the first of its kind for human imaging, the study said.

The 9.4 T magnetic field is more than three times stronger than that of a typical MRI machine in a doctor’s office and is currently approved only for research.

“The information provided by these 9.4-Tesla scans may be very useful in helping us detect tiny losses of brain cells and the reduction in cell density that characterizes the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases that can take decades to develop before symptoms appear, like Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author Keith Thulborn, professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“If we can identify when Alzheimer’s pathology starts, the efficacy of new drugs or other interventions to slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease can be tested and monitored when the disease starts, instead of after it’s developed for 20 or 30 years and becomes clinically apparent,” Thulborn noted.

The study that involved scanning the brains of 49 cognitively normal adults ranging in age from 21 to 80 was published in the journal NMR in Biomedicine.

Thulborn thinks the ultra-high-field scanners eventually will be approved for clinical use.

“We can use the 9.4 T to look at brain cell loss in real time in patients experiencing stroke, or to see whether chemotherapy for brain tumors is working in higher resolution that is just not available using the current 3 T clinical scanners,” he said. (IANS)

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Can A Beetroot Compound Prevent Alzheimer’s?

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The findings showed that the compound betanin in beetroot extract could eventually help slow the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain, a process that is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Pixabay

A compound found in beetroot that gives the vegetable its distinctive red color could help prevent Alzheimer’s, finds a study that could lead to the development of drugs for treating the disease.

“Our data suggest that betanin shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Li-June Ming, from the University of South Florida.

ALSO READ: A ray of hope: Study reveals Alzheimer’s may be caused by misfiring immune system

Beta-amyloid is a sticky protein fragment, or peptide, that accumulates in the brain, disrupting communication between brain cells called neurons.

Much of the damage occurs when beta-amyloid attaches itself to metals such as iron or copper.

beetroot
These metals can cause beta-amyloid peptides to misfold and bind together in clumps that can promote inflammation and oxidation — a process similar to rusting — in nearby neurons, eventually killing them. Pixabay

 

Betanin is also used in commercial dyes that readily binds to metals.

The team investigated betanin’s potential to block the effects of copper on beta-amyloid and, in turn, prevent the misfolding of these peptides and the oxidation of neurons.

ALSO READ: Could diabetes drug cure Alzheimer’s disease?

When betanin was added to the copper-bound beta-amyloid mixture, the researchers found oxidation dropped by as much as 90 percent, suggesting that misfolding of the peptides was potentially suppressed.

“We can’t say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation,” noted Darrell Cole Cerrato from the varsity.

“Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer’s,” Cerrato explained.

The results were presented at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans. IANS

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