Aging

There is renewed hope for treatment of a rare genetic condition, Progeria, that causes rapidly accelerated aging and leads to an average life expectancy of 13 years.

Scientists studying the genes of two infants who died of mysterious illnesses found the infants had mutations in LMNA, the same gene altered in patients with the premature aging condition. But the infants' unusual mutations caused them to make many more bad copies of the gene's primary protein, lamin A, than progeria patients.

The Spanish Aging Research Network (Red Nacional de Investigación del Envejecimiento), funded by Carlos III Health Institute and headed by professor Darío Acuña Castroviejo, from the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada [http://www.ugr.es]), is very near to achieving one of today's Science greatest goals: allowing humans to age in the best possible health conditions.

A relative of the anti-aging gene Klotho helps activate a hormone that can lower blood glucose levels in fat cells of mice, making it a novel target for developing drugs to treat human obesity and diabetes, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

In a study available online and in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers show that a type of Klotho protein binds to receptors for a metabolic hormone in fat cells, forming a "co-receptor" that enables the hormone to stimulate the processing of glucose, the body’s main source of fuel. The Klotho gene has previously been found to play a role in prolonging the life of mice partly by controlling insulin.

Yale School of Medicine and University of Crete School of Medicine researchers report in Cell April 20 the first evidence of a molecular mechanism that dynamically alters the strength of higher brain network connections.

This discovery may help the development of drug therapies for the cognitive deficits of normal aging, and for cognitive changes in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A type of omega-3 fatty acid may slow the growth of two brain lesions that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, UC Irvine scientists have discovered. The finding suggests that diets rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

This study with genetically modified mice is the first to show that DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, can slow the accumulation of tau, a protein that leads to the development of neurofibrillary tangles. Such tangles are one of two signature brain lesions of Alzheimer’s disease. DHA also was found to reduce levels of the protein beta amyloid, which can clump in the brain and form plaques, the other Alzheimer’s lesion.

At MIT, researchers are working on an early version of intelligent, robotic helpers--a humanoid called Domo who grasp objects and place them on shelves or counters. Domo is the "next generation" of earlier robots built at MIT-Kismet, which was designed to interact with humans, and Cog, which could learn to manipulate unknown objects.

In the futuristic cartoon series "The Jetsons," a robotic maid named Rosie whizzed around the Jetsons' home doing household chores--cleaning, cooking dinner and washing dishes. The technology is not quite there yet.

Women who undergo breast enlargement often see a sizable boost in self-esteem and positive feelings about their sexuality, a University of Florida nurse researcher reports.

Although plastic surgery should not be seen as a panacea for feelings of low self-worth or sexual attractiveness, it is important for health-care practitioners to understand the psychological benefits of these procedures, says Cynthia Figueroa-Haas, a clinical assistant professor at UF’s College of Nursing who conducted the study. The findings — which revealed that for many women, going bigger is better — appear in the current issue of Plastic Surgical Nursing.

According to a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored higher than their non-playing peers.

"Action video game play changes the way our brains process visual information," says Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

Unlike most of our sensory systems that detect only one type of stimuli, our sense of smell works double duty, detecting both chemical and mechanical stimuli to improve how we smell, according to University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers in the March issue of Nature Neuroscience.

This finding, plus the fact that both types of stimuli produce reaction in olfactory nerve cells, which control how our brain perceives what we smell, explains why we sniff to smell something, and why our sense of smell is synchronized with inhaling.

In the first genome-wide search for the genetic roots of the most common form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Johns Hopkins scientists have newly identified 34 unique variations in the human genetic code among 276 unrelated subjects with ALS.

The 34 so-called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, represent good candidate genes predisposing people to the non-inherited form of the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

“Although we haven’t located the exact gene responsible for sporadic ALS, our results seriously narrow the search and bring us that much closer to finding what we need to start developing treatments for the disease,” says Bryan J. Traynor, M.D., of the Department of Neurology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.