BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Alzheimer’s

Taking care of your gut might be a pain now, but is definitely worth it!

Brain with Alzheimer’s

The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated.
Many people have said the human gut is like a “second brain.” With trillions of microbes, the digestive tract of the human gut can influence many things such as your metabolism, nutrition, immune function, and even your happiness. New research continues to show links between the brain and the health of the gut.

For example, a study from Lund University found that “unhealthy intestinal flora can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s disease is an extremely common form of dementia or memory loss. It is caused by the death of many brain cells, which progressively decreases the size of the brain and the number nerve cells and connections. This study showed that mice with Alzheimer’s have a different bacterial profile in their guts than mice without this disease. Dr. Frida Fak Hallenius said that “Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease and in the near future we will likely be able to give advice on what to eat to prevent it. Take care of your gut bacteria, by eating lots of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.”

 

After these discoveries, researchers are looking deeper into how bacteria can affect brain pathology. One of their ideas is that the bacteria may affect T-cells in the gut, which controls inflammatory processes both in the gut and brain. Therefore, if we can find a way to increase the health of the gut, we can reduce inflammation and brain damage. Alzheimer’s, while it is one of the most feared diseases, is preventable to in extent and if not preventable, there are several ways to delay it. The human gut microbiome has a huge impact on your health and your brain’s health. If scientists can continue to discover how to make your gut as healthy as possible, Alzheimer’s could soon be a thing of the past.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gut-bacteria-alzheimers_us_589e0e09e4b03df370d628be

http://www.nature.com/news/the-tantalizing-links-between-gut-microbes-and-the-brain-1.18557

Can Probiotics Cure Alzheimer’s?

 

 

Research on how gut microbiota affects Alzheimer’s Disease, also called AD, has been done, and promising data collected. The only problem is that all of this data comes solely from research done on mice. There has been minimal research up to the present that was tested on actual people.

The closest thing to real-life research in this field, however, would be the research done by Dr. Mahmoud Salami, as reviewed by Gut Microbiota Research and Practice. Dr. Salami has collected data from a trial he is conducting in Iran. This trial consists of 60 people between the age 60 and 95. Now since we know that there has been minimal research on how gut microbiota effects Alzheimer’s, this work done by Dr. Salami is impressive.

Dr. Salami has found that a daily dose of probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria taken over 12 weeks may improve cognitive function in elderly Alzheimer’s patients. Although more research must be done to have more definitive answers, Dr. Salami’s research opens up even more of a reason to human testing to be done.

Countless research has been done on how where one lives can affect there health, so wouldn’t it be interesting to see if data, similar to Dr. Salami’s, collected in varying locations throughout the world may provide varying results due to the location the participant calls their home?

 

 

Could drinking milk reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s?

While it may seem like a stretch, researchers have recently discovered a link between probiotics, or good bacteria, in our intestinal tracts and neurological function. A study done at Kashan University of Medical Sciences and Azad University in Iran has revealed that probiotics can improve cognition in those suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Many studies done in the past have shown that probiotics in mice have resulted in improved memory and learning as well as reduced depression, anxiety and OCD- related behaviors. These surprising findings have led scientists to be curious about weather or not humans would benefit in the same ways. Prior to this most recent study however, no research has been done on the effects of probiotics in human brains.

 

52 men and women between 60 and 95 years old with Alzheimer’s participated in this groundbreaking study. Half of the participants were randomly chosen to receive 200 ml of milk enriched with probiotic bacteria, while the other half were given untreated milk daily for 12 weeks. Prior to beginning the study, participants and were given a questionnaire testing cognitive function, which included tasks like repeating a phrase, giving the current date and naming objects. While these may seem like simple tasks to us, patients suffering with Alzheimer’s have great difficulty completing such actions.

 

Over the course of the 12-week study, the participants were repeatedly given the same questionnaire. The scores of the group who received the enriched milk increase significantly, averaging from an initial 8.7 increasing to 10.6 out of 30, while the scores of the group that received the un-enriched milk mostly remained the same or decreased.

 

While this area of research is still in its primary stages, the findings of this study helped us discover an important connection between the gastrointestinal tract and neurological function, as well as how probiotics have a direct effect on cognition. Researchers have hope that further study can reveal more about the affects of probiotic on Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions.

Probiotics: The Real Brain Food

While it is nearly common knowledge that probiotics give partial protection against certain colds, allergies, infectious diarrheas, and other health issues, scientists were not able to prove until recently that probiotics can potentially improve cognition. This is possible since there is communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain via the nervous system, the immune system, and hormones.

Scientists have seen that in mice, probiotics have caused an improvement in learning and memory. Researchers from Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, and Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran, completed a double-blind experiment where 52 men and women with Alzheimers (between 60 and 95 years old) either received milk enriched with four probiotic bacteria, or untreated milk. As predicted by several researchers, by the end of the 12 week period, those who received the milk with Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum, and Bifidobacterium Bifidum displayed an improvement in cognition. To determine these results of the study, the scientists asked the participants of the study to complete tasks such as giving the current date, repeating a phrase, and counting backwards from 100 by sevens. Those who received the probiotics earned a “score” on these tasks ranging from 8.7 to 10.6 on the scale out of 30, whereas the participants who did not receive the probiotics scored slightly lower ranging from 8.5 to 8.0. Despite the seemingly minute difference, these results provide scientists with an insight as to the fact that probiotics can improve human cognition.

alzheimers_disease_brain_comparison

In the near future, scientists hope to test these results based on longevity of their intake to test whether or not the effects of probiotics grows throughout prolonged treatment. The patients who received the probiotics also demonstrated lower levels of triglyceride, Very Loy Density Lipoprotein (VLDL), high sensitivity C-Reactive protein (hs-CRP) in the blood of the Alzheimer patients, and a reduction in two common measures of insulin resistance and the activity of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. These results also signify that this change in metabolic adjustments might be a way that the probiotics impacts other cognitive and neurological disorders.

Further Reading:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314044.php

http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/731021/yoghurt-Alzheimers-symptoms-improve

If You Didn’t Already Know, You Shouldn’t Eat Sharks

Can sharks give you Alzheimer’s disease? Do people actually eat sharks?

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-12-47-10-pm

NOAA, national ocean service image gallery flicker.com/photos Licensed for reuse/public domain

The answer to both of these questions is yes. A recent study by the university of Miami found large amounts of toxins that are linked to brain disease. It has been recently found that about 10 types of sharks have high concentrations of these toxins and that the consumption of these sharks can actually lead to the development of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Though it is very uncommon for someone to be found eating a shark in the U.S, shark is widely consumed across Asia so many asians may be at risk of developing brain diseases. The shark population is rapidly decreasing due for the desire to have shark fin soup, a delicacy across Asia, and this new information may be used to help the argument against the killing of sharks. Since sharks are becoming more and more endangered, this discovery could help save the lives of sharks and of people. So people, especially ones that consume shark, must learn that eating shark can have real negative effects on peoples lives and by killing sharks they are helping the endangerment of the species. This killing and consuming of sharks needs to stop to help save sharks and people.

Hammer Head Shark 1893 No Known copyright restrictions flicker.com/photos

Hammer Head Shark
1893
No Known copyright restrictions
flicker.com/photos

Lead Leads to Neurotoxitity

Have you ever heard of using bottled water to shower? Sounds ridiculous right, but the people of Flint, Michigan need to do this to save their lives. The city of Flint switched their water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014. The river was later discovered to be contaminated. Since the changeover, scientists have linked the high lead levels in children’s blood to the contaminated water. This is a serious problem.

Lead is a highly toxic substance that permanently affects humans’ brains by killing nerve cells. Not only does lead harm kids’ brain processes, it also may cause various future mental diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Schizophrenia. Throughout U.S. history, people have been exposed to lead poisoning through basic everyday mediums, such as paint, water (from lead-contaminated water pipes), and dust. Children who eat paint chips or lick their fingers after coming in contact with products that have a lead component are poisoning themselves. The lead enters into the bloodstream and travels throughout the body, stealthily making itself at home, poisoning the body.

So how does lead poisoning work? Basically, lead disguises itself as zinc. Zinc is needed to anchor proteins that switch genes on and off. When zinc is replaced with lead, the switches cannot function properly, eventually leading to mental diseases.

Lead Poisoning

Scientists have been researching the possibility that lead is transferable in DNA to offspring. This could be devastating to a population of a town like Flint, Michigan, where the mothers who have lead poisoning could pass this on to their babies. The worst part is that there is no cure for lead poisoning.

Because of the devastating effects of lead in bloodstream, governments have debated the topic of legalizing contaminated water as a bioweapon, using lead as the contaminant. Governments in the past have used poisoned water as an assassination method, proving the effectiveness of this strategy.

Preventing lead exposure and poisoning is critical for children’s health and for future generations.

 

Source Article

For more info on the biowarfare, click here.

Could There be Good Gene Mutations?

Is there an epic battle occurring within our bodies right now? The classic battle royale between good and bad? I suppose in the body’s case the fight between good and bad genes.  There is a new field in medical research in which researchers are on the quest to find good gene mutations that fight against the disease causing mutations.  One individual, Doug Whitney, sparked the interest of a few doctors because he has fought his genetic odds to be health at 65 years old.  Whitney has a gene mutation, presenilin, that causes early onset Alzheimer’s disease in those who has inherited it. Whitney’s mother and 9 out of his 13 siblings were killed by this mutation and so Whitney’s fate seemed to be sealed.  However when Whitney reached his 40s and 50s having no symptoms he assumed he did not have the gene.  At 62 years old, Whitney, decided he would get a gene test.  He did have the gene.  This was an anomaly, He was doomed to have early onset Alzheimer’s Disease but had absolutely no symptoms. Although Whitney still have changes of getting Alzhiemers but the effects of his bad gene have been greatly delayed by another gene in Whitney’s DNA.  Whitney joined a study at Washington University in St. Louis led by Doctor Randall Bateman which recruited people with the early onset Alzheimer’s disease gene. This attracted the attention of Doctor Eric E. Schadt and Doctor Stephen H. Friend.  Doctor Schadt said that searching for good genes that protect against bad gene mutations is completely turning genetic research on its head.  Researchers have found gene mutations that partially protect diseases like osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.  These good gene mutation’s partial protect have help to develop drugs to help fight certain diseases. Finding good gene mutations are substantially more difficult to find than bad genes, but the search has gotten a little easier with fast and inexpensive methods of sequencing DNA. Doctor Schadt and Doctor Friend decided to start the Resilience Project and search for good gene mutations that counteract bad gene mutations to help develop new break though treatments and drugs. They have contacted the researchers at Washington University, the research that Whitney is currently participating in.

For more information:

Article from NYT

Prokaryotic positive genetic influences

Genetics used for intrusion protection

About genetic testing

 

Petri Dish Brain Models…Endless Possibilities.

Side View of the Brain

Who would have thought that modern science could develope a brain stimulation with actual brain cells in a petri dish? Well researchers led by Doctor Rudolph E. Tanzi have done just that.  They have made substantial steps in the field of medical brain research specifically in the Alzheimer’s research field. Rudolph E. Tanzi is a prominent neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. One of Tanzi’s colleagues and also a neuroscientist, Doo Yeon Kim, suggested that they grow brain cells in gel. From this suggestion researchers under Tanzi’s lead created a brain scenario in a petri dish and then gave this model Alzheimer’s disease. Tanzi and his group took embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to become any type of cell in the body, and grew them with a mixture of chemicals. Said chemicals cause the stems cells to become neurons, which they then gave those neurons Alzheimer’s genes and were all growing in a commercially available gel in a petri dish. Those genes then caused plaques and later tangles which are indicative characteristics of Alzheimers. Dr Tanzi was quoted, “Sure enough, we saw plaques, real plaques…We waited, and then we saw tangles, actual tangles. It looks like you are looking at an Alzheimer brain.” This manufactured real Alzheimer’s brain stimulation opens new doors for research that was hindered because previously on mice with imperfect formsof the human Alzheimer’s genes. Doctor P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University states, “It could dramatically accelerate testing of new drug candidates.” Although the Petri Dish Model lacks some real life qualities it can still be utilized as a start for quick, cheap, and easy drug testing. Doctor Sam Gandy of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York states that the new discovery is, “a real game changer.” Tanzi is now starting to test 1,200 drugs on the market and 5,000 experimental drugs, a project that was impossible to perform on mice. Tanzi also wishes to test a protein, amyloid, that clumps into the plaques. He found an enzyme, that when blocked prevents tangles from forming. Dr. Gandy wishes to use the the system to study the influence of genes, such as ApoE4, which contributes to about 50% of Alzheimer’s cases. Dr. Doraiswamy of Duke stated, “The lack of a viable model for Alzheimer’s has been the Achilles’ heel of the field.” Tanzi’s model is the first step towards defeating this “Achilles’ heel” which opens infinite new doors in the research of finding new medications to cope with the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease.

For more Information: 

Official Alzheimer’s Research Page

Neuroscience Research 

Actual Article

 

 

 

Diabetes–More Then Meets The Eye

In recent studies, it is said that people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may also show signs of the beginnings  of Alzheimer’s. As we studied in our last unit, type 2 diabetes develops in a person who has taken in a lot of glucose in their lifetime. So much glucose that after a while–receptors begin to not recognize insulin. Eating too much sugary, high-fat foods, is extremely detrimental to ones health. Common side affects of diabetes include: heart disease, nerve damage, vision loss, kidney damage, and foot damage. According to my article, not only can insulin resistance cause type 2 diabetes, but also can lead to memory loss and cognitive issues. In a study done at Brown University, it was found that not only can you’re liver and fat cells become diabetic but even you’re brain can become diabetic! The hippocampus, as our class is familiar with, deals with learning and memory. When insulin is resisted in the hippocampus, cognitive problems can occur. One of the main causes of Alzheimer’s is the mass build up of the protein beta-amyloid, in the brain. This build up leaves insoluble plaques between dead cells in the brain.

An investigation was conducted to find out if beta-amyloid buildup may be a cause of cognitive decline in type 2 diabetes. 20 rats were given a high-fat diet that led to type 2 diabetes and another group of 20 rats were given a healthy diet. Both groups of rats were trained to expect a shock while in a dark cage. When rats returned to their dark cages, scientists would measure how long it took for the rats to react to the shock. Of course, the rats with type 2 diabetes proved weaker. They stood still in their dark cages twice as long as the healthy rats did.

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s epidemic is only becoming more and more relevant as the years go by. This study is important. Although preventing diabetes may not prevent types of dementia, it will prevent many other serious health problems. Because of recent findings of links between the two diseases, scientists are doing everything possible  to prevent Alzheimer’s in patients with type 2 diabetes.

 

 

 

diabetes

 

http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/  by: GDS Infographics

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbal Essences

An exciting new study at the St. Louis University Medical School, has gave way to a new theory regarding the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. The geriatric researcher, Dr. Susan Farr Ph.D, disclosed at Neuroscience 2013, that extracts of spearmint and rosemary can “reduce deficits caused by mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease,”.

The research was conducted on an animal model, so there is no conclusive human evidence yet. But Dr. Farr’s results seem promising in that her tests using an “antioxidant-based ingredient” made from spearmint extract and two different concentrations of a similar antioxidant made from rosemary extract on mice that have age-related cognitive decline.

Farr found that the higher dose rosemary extract compound had the most impact in increasing memory and learning in three tested behaviors. The lower concentration rosemary extract improved memory in two of the behavioral tests, as did the compound made from spearmint extract.

Her research also found that the introduction of these extracts to the subjects’ systems decreased oxidative stress, a “hallmark of age-related decline” in the cerebrum, the learning and memory center of the brain.

As Dr. Farr continues her promising research, are you going to find yourself chewing more spearmint gum?

Identical but Not the Same

 

Some Rights Reserved. More Information: http://www.flickr.com/photos/timoni/3390886772/sizes/s/in/photostream/

After studying genetically inherited traits and diseases it could be easy to assume that genes determine everything about us. While it is true that colorblindness is a sex-linked trait – there is certainly more to the story.

Monozygotic “identical” twins are genetically identical, so they should be the same in all ways shouldn’t they?

Why, then, does one twin get early onset Alzheimer’s disease and the other “identical” twin doesn’t? The same is true for height, autism, and cancer. Although, when one twin has a disorder the other is more likely to get the disease also, that is not always the case.

In the January edition of National Geographic, author Peter Miller discusses the newest theories about how genes, environoment and epigenetics affect our life (and the end of it).

Twins offer scientists a unique opportunity to study how genetically identical people differ. Basically, that means scientists can study how things other than genes affect human development and lifespan. Already, scientists have found that a persons height is only 80% determined by genetics because the heights of “identical” twins differ by about .o8 on average. Using IQ tests, scientists have nearly disproved John Locke’s Tabula Rasa or blank slate theory (the idea that children are born with a blank mind that is either stimulated – (and made intelligent) – or not –  (kept unintelligent)). Specifically, scientists studied twins who had been separated at birth and adopted into different families. In this way, scientists have found that intelligence  is about 75% controlled by genetics.

So that leads to the question, what is it besides genes that affects us humans so drastically?

Environment has something to do with our differences. However, that cannot be the whole story. “The Jim Twins” as they are called in the twin science community, were studied in the 1870’s. They were adopted into different families where both boys were named Jim. Then went on to have the same jobs, marry wives of the same name (two Lynda’s first then two Betty’s), enjoy the same hobbies, enjoy the same brand of cigarette and beer, name their sons James Allan and James Alan… the list goes on. These two lived very similar lives, yet they grew up in very different environments. If environment isn’t the only factor in creating difference then what is?

Scientists have recently come to believe that epigenetics plays a significant role in our lives. Epigenetics (site 2) can be seen as the meshing of environment and DNA. In the words of author Peter Miller “If you think of our DNA as an immense piano keyboard and our genes as keys – each key seach key symbolizing a segment of DNA respinsible  for a particulare note or trait, and all the keys combining to make us who we are – then epigenetic prcesses determine when an how each key can be struck changing the tune.”  Environmental changes do have some impact.  When a pregnant mouse is put under stress during the pregnancy it can create changes in the fetus that lead to abnormal behavior as the rodent grows into adulthood.

However, scarily enough, many epigenetic changes appear to occur randomly (thus creating a probelm for the organized nature/nurture theory). Currently work is being done studying DNA methylation, which is known to make the expression of genes weaker or stronger. Specifically, Andrew Feinburg, director of the Center for Epigenetics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is working to find how DNA methylation relates to autism. Currently, he is using scanners and computers to search samples of DNA from autistic twins who have the disease in varying degrees. He is looking to compare how and why

the genes are expressed differently.

In the end, all we know is that there is more to our future than our genes can tell us. Yes, our genes play a huge role in who we are as people – in terms of appearance, character, intelligence and more – but there are some variables that our environment and epigenetics control.

Main Article: Miller, Peter. “A Thing or Two About Twins.” National Geographic. Jan 2012: 38-65. Print.

Don’t forget your sleep

Photo Credit: Me

Let’s face it there are many nights when we don’t get the sleep we need for some reason or other.  Not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep is pretty much the norm for students, but according to a new study this lack of sleep could really be hurting us later on.  This new study found that disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, which are a known to be a hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, in the brains of people who did not yet have any memory problems.

The author of the study Yo-El Ju, who works with Washington University School of Medicine conducted the study by testing the sleep patterns of one hundred people, ages 45 to 80, who were free of dementia.  Half of this group had a family history of Alzheimer’s.  Sleep diaries and questionnaires were used to learn about the patients sleeping habits as well as a device placed on the participants for two weeks to measure sleep.

The study found that 25% of the participants had evidence of amyloid plaques, which are known to be able to show up years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear.  Most of these people spend an average of eight hours in bed, but only 6.5 hours asleep due to waking up at night.  The study found that people who were waking up more than five times an hour were more likely to have the amyloid plaque build-up than the people who didn’t wake up much at all.  The study also said that people who slept less efficiently were more likely to have markers of early stage Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr.Ju says it will take more time and data to fully understand the link, but I think for now it is safe to say that sometimes we should put our homework down and get to sleep.

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