The scientists at Arizona State University have found a rare atomic level change at the enzyme telomerase that holds secrets as to how we grow old.
The telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme that maintains telomeres and prevents them from shortening during cell division. Telomeres are found at the ends of human chromosomes and are stretches of DNA which protect the genetic data.
“Telomerase is crucial for telomere maintenance and genome integrity. Mutations that disrupt telomerase function have been linked to numerous human diseases that arise from telomere shortening and genome instability,” explained Julian Chen, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State.
The telomeres keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble our genetic information.
“This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death,” scientists noted.
“We are particularly excited about this research because it provides, for the first time, an atomic level description of the protein-RNA interaction in the vertebrate telomerase complex,” Chen added.
The scientists in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai had conducted the crucial research, which will be published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.
Washington, Aug 08 (ANI): Researchers have made it clear that cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, but it is not inevitable. If you can’t seem to remember things as well as you used to, the problem may well be with the GluN2B subunits in your NMDA receptors. Research on these biochemical processes in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University is making it clear that cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, and scientists are tracking the problem down to highly specific components of the brain.
Kathy Magnusson, a neuroscientist in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and professor in the Linus Pauling Institute said that these are biological processes, and once we fully understand what is going on, we may be able to slow or prevent it. Magnusson said that there may be ways to influence it with diet, health habits, continued mental activity or even drugs. Researchers found that one protein that stabilizes receptors in a young animal- a good thing conducive to learning and memory – can have just the opposite effect if there’s too much of it in an older animal.
In recent research, scientists used a genetic therapy in laboratory mice, in which a virus helped carry complementary DNA into appropriate cells and restored some GluN2B subunits. Tests showed that it helped mice improve their memory and cognitive ability.
Magnusson said that the NMDA receptor plays a role in memory and learning but isn’t active all the time. Within the NMDA receptor are various subunits, and Magnusson said that research keeps pointing back to the GluN2B subunit as one of the most important. Infants and children have lots of them, and as a result are like a sponge in soaking up memories and learning new things. But they gradually dwindle in number with age, and it also appears the ones that are left work less efficiently.
The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Keeping mentally active by reading books or writing letters helps protect the brain in old age, a study suggests.
A lifetime of mental challenges leads to slower cognitive decline after factoring out dementia’s impact on the brain, US researchers say. The study, published in Neurology, adds weight to the idea that dementia onset can be delayed by lifestyle factors. An Alzheimer’s charity said the best way to lower dementia risk was to eat a balanced diet, exercise and stay slim.
In a US study, 294 people over the age of 55 were given tests that measured memory and thinking, every year for about six years until their deaths.
They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other activities linked to mental stimulation during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and in later life.
After death, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as brain lesions and plaques.
The study found that after factoring out the impact of those signs, those who had a record of keeping the brain busy had a rate of c
ognitive decline estimated at 15% slower than those who did not.
Dr Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who led the study, said the research suggested exercising the brain across a lifetime was important for brain health in old age.
He told BBC News: “The brain that we have in old age depends in part on what we habitually ask it to do in life.
“What you do during your lifetime has a great impact on the likelihood these age-related diseases are going to be expressed.”
Dementia exacts a heavy toll on society, with more than 820,000 people in the UK alone currently living with the condition.
Commenting on the study, Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said there was increasing evidence mental activity may help protect against cognitive decline. But the underlying reasons for this remained unclear.
“By examining donated brain tissue, this study has shed more light on this complex question, and the results lend weight to the theory that mental activity may provide a level of ‘cognitive reserve’, helping the brain resist some of the damage from diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” he said.
Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “More research and bigger studies are needed, but in the meantime reading more and doing crosswords can be enjoyable and certainly won’t do you any harm.
“The best way to reduce your risk of developing dementia is to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.”