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Published on: May 13, 2014
by Vanessa Blanchard for Daily Digest News:
The solution to brain health decline in elderly populations could possibly be found in the brain itself. A gene, known as the KLOTHO gene, has been identified in a recent study as playing a role in promoting cognitive performances and preserving memory. The functions of this gene could even help to stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia in elderly.
Research has already revealed a connection between some genes and the development of Alzheimer’s. Last year, 11 genes were isolated as playing some role in Alzheimer’s and scientists have gone so far as to suggest that Alzheimer’s could be predicted as early as birth, based upon the presence of genes that would increase the chance of developing the disease with aging.
The presence of the KLOTHO gene provides a more optimistic outlook for the elderly, though. Researchers used specially bred mice to study the effects of the KLOTHO gene and found that mice with the gene present at elevated levels were able to perform better on memory and recall tasks. Mice with higher performances on these tests were also found to have high levels of the gene in the parts of their brains that aided in memory processing.
The study, which was published in the journal Cell Reports last week, also examined a group of more than 700 people, aged 52 to 85, in order to determine if the role of the gene in memory was consistent with that of the lab mice. None of the participants had Alzheimer’s or any other dementia related disease. Their results revealed that individuals with a single copy of the gene were more prone to longevity and had a decreased risk of stroke. In contrast, those with two copies tended to have a shorter lifespan and higher risk of stroke.
Those with a single copy were able to perform better than those with two copies on a variety of cognitive tasks assigned to them during the study. These tasks covered areas such as attention span, learning and memory and the increased performance of participants with a single copy indicate the possible role the KLOTHO gene may play in connectivity in the brain.
Researchers claim that their findings could help lead to a better understanding of how to boost brain health in the elderly, maintaining functionality and preventing dementia related diseases.
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