Despite the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years, medical research continued in areas not related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Scientists have made new discoveries about the early signs, possible causes and potential prevention of memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Here are five recent developments announced on the ScienceDaily.com website that seniors and caregivers in San Diego will find interesting, useful, and hopeful.
- Clearance of protein linked to Alzheimer’s controlled by circadian cycle: “The brain’s ability to clear a protein closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease is tied to our circadian cycle. … The research underscores the importance of healthy sleep habits in preventing the protein Amyloid-Beta 42 (AB42) from forming clumps in the brain and opens a path to potential Alzheimer’s therapies. … The circadian system is composed of a core set of clock proteins that anticipate the day/night cycle by causing daily oscillations in the levels of enzymes and hormones, ultimately affecting physiological parameters such as body temperature and the immune response. Disruption of the circadian system is increasingly associated with diseases like diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.”
- Stop the clocks: Brisk walking may slow biological aging process: “A new study of genetic data … of more than 400,000 UK adults has revealed a clear link between walking pace and a genetic marker of biological age. Confirming a causal link between walking pace and leucocyte telomere length (LTL) — an indicator of biological age – [a] Leicester-based team of researchers estimate that a lifetime of brisk walking could lead to the equivalent of 16 years younger biological age by midlife. … Each time a cell divides, these telomeres become shorter — until a point where they become so short that the cell can no longer divide, known as ‘replicative senescence’. Therefore, scientists consider LTL a strong marker for ‘biological age’, independent from when an individual was born. Although the relationship between telomere length and disease is not fully understood, the build-up of these senescent cells is believed to contribute to a range of symptoms we associate with aging, such as frailty and age-related diseases.”
- New research identifies blood biomarker for predicting dementia before symptoms develop: “New research from NUI Galway and Boston University has identified a blood biomarker that could help identify people with the earliest signs of dementia, even before the onset of symptoms. … The researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults…The analysis found that elevated levels of P-tau181 in the blood were associated with greater accumulation of ß-amyloid, an abnormal protein in Alzheimer’s disease, on specialized brain scans. These scans were completed on average seven years after the blood test.”
- Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function: “People who include a little yoga or tai chi in their day may be more likely to remember where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Japan’s University of Tsukuba found that even very light workouts can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage. In a study of 36 healthy young adults, the researchers discovered that a single 10-minute period of mild exertion can yield considerable cognitive benefits. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging, the team examined subjects’ brains shortly after exercise sessions and saw better connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas linked to detailed memory processing. … The hippocampus is critical for the creation of new memories; it’s one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate as we get older — and much more severely in Alzheimer’s disease.”
- Food for thought: A high-fiber diet may reduce risk of dementia: “Researchers [at the University of Tsukuba in Japan] found that higher levels of dietary fiber are associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia. In a large-scale study, over 3500 Japanese adults completed a dietary survey and were then followed up for two decades. Adults who consumed more fiber, particularly soluble fiber, were less likely to go on to develop dementia. These findings may relate to interactions between the gut and the brain. … The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain.”