Longevity gene also protects memory, cognitive function

Dec 26, 2006

A gene variation that helps people live into their 90s and beyond also protects their memories and ability to think and learn new information, according to a study published in the December 26, 2006, issue of Neurology.

The gene variant alters the cholesterol particles in the blood, making them bigger than normal. Researchers believe that smaller particles can more easily lodge themselves in blood vessel linings, leading to the fatty buildup that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

The study examined 158 people of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, Jewish descent, who were 95 years old or older. Those who had the gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function compared to those who did not have the gene variant. The researchers also validated these findings in a group of 124 Ashkenazi Jews who were between age 75 and 85 and found similar results.

"It's possible that this gene variant also protects against the development of Alzheimer's disease," said study author Nir Barzilai, MD, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY.

Barzilai noted that many studies have identified risk factors associated with developing age-related diseases. "But little effort has been made to identify the reasons for longevity in exceptionally old people, and why they don't develop disease. In studying these centenarians, we hope to learn what factors lessen their risk for diseases that affect the general population at a much younger age. Our results bring us a step closer to understanding the role that genes play in longevity."

Work is being done to develop drugs that can mimic the effect of this gene variation, Barzilai said.

Approximately one in 10,000 people in the general population lives to the age of 100.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Explore further: Investigators show how immune cells are 'educated' not to attack beneficial bacteria

Related Stories

Myth of tolerant dogs and aggressive wolves refuted

2 hours ago

Dogs are regarded as more tolerant and less aggressive compared to their ancestors, the wolves. Researchers from the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna question this image. They show in a ...

Recommended for you

Fat signals control energy levels in the brain

Apr 23, 2015

An enzyme secreted by the body's fat tissue controls energy levels in the brain, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings, in mice, underscore a role ...

Human tape worm drug shows promise against MRSA in lab

Apr 23, 2015

A new study provides evidence from lab experiments that a drug already used in people to fight tapeworms might also prove effective against strains of the superbug MRSA, which kills thousands of people a ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.