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Big Cat Species face the Same Challenges as their Ancestors that went extinct towards the end of the last Ice Age: Study

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London, May 11, 2017: Big cat species, especially African lion and Sunda clouded leopard, face the same challenges as their ancestors that went extinct towards the end of the last Ice Age, a new study says.

The team researched the cause of extinction of seven large cats from the Ice Age including four different types of sabre-toothed cats.

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The seven big cats that went extinct during that period are those which lost the greatest proportion of their prey, showed the study published in the journal Ecography.

Using a new global database of felid diets called FelidDiet, the researchers assessed whether Ice Age extinction trends could be applied to populations of big cat species now.

They discovered that if all the currently threatened and declining prey species within big cat natural ranges were to go extinct, only 39 percent of the African lion’s prey and 37 percent of Sunda clouded leopard’s would remain.

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The researchers believe that if this prey loss trend continued, this would pose a high risk of extinction to these two big cat species in particular.

Prey decline puts tiger, leopard and cheetah at risk too, the researchers said.

“If primary big cat prey continues to decline at such a rate, then big cats, including lion, Sunda clouded leopard, tiger and cheetah, are at high risk of extinction,” said Chris Sandom from the University of Sussex in Britain.

“The Churchillian aphorism that those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it was painfully in mind when we saw how many of the prey of lions and in East Africa and of clouded leopards in Indo-Malaya look set to go down the same drain which their counterparts in other regions have already been flushed,” said Professor David Macdonald, Director of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

“We need to buck this Ice Age trend once and for all and to reinforce the urgent need for governments to protect both big cat species and their prey,” Sandom added. (IANS)

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Scientists Discover A New Method To Fight Alzheimer’s, Dementia

Worldwide, about seven percent of people over 65 suffer from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 percent above the age of 85.

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Alzheimer's
One hemisphere of a healthy brain (L) is pictured next to one hemisphere of a brain of a person suffering from Alzheimer disease. VOA
Eliminating dead-but-toxic cells occurring naturally in the brains of mice designed to mimic Alzheimer’s slowed neuron damage and memory loss associated with the disease, according to a study published Wednesday that could open a new front in the fight against dementia.The accumulation in the body of “zombie cells” that can no longer divide but still cause harm to other healthy cells, a process called senescence, is common to all mammals.

Scientists have long known that these dead-beat cells gather in regions of the brain linked to old age diseases ranging from osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis to Parkinson’s and dementia.

Prior research had also shown that the elimination of senescent cells in ageing mice extended their healthy lifespan.

But the new results, published in Nature, are the first to demonstrate a cause-and-effect link with a specific disease, Alzheimer’s, the scientists said.

Alzheimer's
A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

But any treatments that might emerge from the research are many years down the road, they cautioned.

In experiments, a team led by Tyler Bussian of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota used mice genetically modified to produce the destructive, cobweb-like tangles of tau protein that form in the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients.

The mice were also programmed to allow for the elimination of “zombie” cells in the same region.

“When senescent cells were removed, we found that the diseased animals retained the ability to form memories, and eliminated signs of inflammation,” said senior author Darren Baker, also from the Mayo Clinic.

The mice likewise failed to develop Alzheimer’s signature protein “tangles”, and retained normal brain mass.

 

Alzheimer's
Alzheimer’s disease patient Isidora Tomaz, 82, sits in an armchair in her house in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s predicted that by 2050, 135 million Americans are going to suffer from mild cognitive impairment, a precursor of Alzheimer’s. VOA

Keeping zombies at bay

A closer look revealed that the “zombies” belonged to a class of cells in the brain and spinal cord, called glia, that provide crucial support and insulation to neurons.

“Preventing the build-up of senescent glia can block the cognitive decline and neuro-degeneration normally experienced by these mice,” Jay Penney and Li-Huei Tsai, both from MIT, wrote in a comment, also in Nature.

Bussian and his team duplicated the results with pharmaceuticals, suggesting that drugs could one day slow or block the emergence of Alzheimer’s by keeping these zombie cells at bay.

“There hasn’t been a new dementia drug in 15 years, so it’s exciting to see the results of this promising study in mice,” said James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society in London.

 

Alzheimer's
The accumulation in the body of “zombie cells” that can no longer divide but still cause harm to other healthy cells, a process called senescence, is common to all mammals. IANS

For Lawrence Rajendran, deputy director of the Dementia Research Institute at King’s College London, the findings “open up new vistas for both diagnosis and therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.”

Up to now, dementia research has been mostly focused on the diseased neurons rather than their neighboring cells.

“It is increasingly becoming clear that other brains cells play a defining role,” Rajendran added.

Several barriers remain before the breakthrough can be translated into a “safe, effective treatment in people,” Pickett and other said.

The elderly often have lots of harmless brain cells that look like the dangerous senescent cells a drug would target, so the molecule would have to be good at telling the two apart.

Also Read: Common Painkillers Triple Harmful Side Effects in Dementia

Worldwide, about seven percent of people over 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 percent above the age of 85.

The number afflicted is expected to triple by 2050 to 152 million, according to the World Health Organization, posing a huge challenge to healthcare systems. (VOA)