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GP Publishing releases "The Miracle of ViaViente"

March 10, 2016

One of the telltale signs of Alzheimer's disease is the buildup of toxic clumps of beta amyloid plaques in the brain. Beta amyloid production probably occurs in all brains, but healthy cells clear away excess amounts. Brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, on the other hand, are unable to control beta amyloid accumulation. The same is true for Alzheimer's mouse models, which are genetically engineered to overproduce beta amyloid.

Although long-lived mice didn't show any of the cognitive or behavioral impairments typical of Alzheimer's disease till very late in life, their brains were riddled with highly compacted plaques.

"Although before it was thought that plaques are the causative agents of Alzheimer's disease, our results clearly support the emerging theme that they have a protective function," says Cohen. "As mice age, they become less efficient at stowing away toxic beta amyloid fibrils in tightly packed aggregates."

An earlier study by Cohen, Dillin, and colleagues, in which they had used roundworms to study the effects of the aging process on protein aggregation, had indicated that high molecular weight aggregates of beta amyloid might actually be less toxic than smaller beta amyloid fibrils. "But worms don't have brains as we do, and it wasn't clear whether these results would be relevant for mammals," he says.

And what about those lucid centenarians? "Interestingly, three studies found that some very long-lived humans carry mutations in components of the IGF-1 signal pathway??”the same pathway that we perturbed to increase the lifespan of the mice in our study," says Dillin.

"The reporting of this work is a celebration for the entire field of aging researchers, as it validates the long-held hypothesis that genetic and pharmacologic changes to create a healthy lifespan, or 'healthspan,' can greatly reduce the onset of some of the most devastating diseases that afflict mankind," he adds.

Source: Salk Institute for Biological Studies