Scientists from the UK and The Netherlands have identified for the first time a variant of a gene that is linked to biological ageing in humans and suggest the discovery will help us better understand cancer and diseases of ageing. The findings of the study by researchers based at the University of Leicester and King's College London, UK, and also at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, were reported online in Nature Genetics on 7 February. The Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation sponsored the work. Professor Nilesh Samani, a British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester's Department of Cardiovascular Sciences co-led the project and also co-wrote the paper. The other project co-leader was Professor Tim Spector from King's College London, who is also director of the TwinsUK study. In a press statement Samani explained that there are two forms of aging: chronological ageing and biological ageing. Chronological ageing is simply how much time has elapsed since you were born, whereas biological age is determined by certain cellular properties that make your cells younger or older than your chronological age.
High blood pressure appears to predict the progression to dementia in older adults with impaired executive functions (ability to organize thoughts and make decisions) but not in those with memory dysfunction, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. "Although midlife hypertension has been confirmed as a risk factor for the development of dementia in late life, there have been conflicting findings about the role of late-life hypertension, " the authors write as background information in the article. Individuals with mild cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) impairment-the state between aging-related brain changes and fully developed dementia-may experience deficits in different domains. For instance, some have impairments only in memory function and are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, whereas those whose impairment follows a stroke or other vascular (blood vessel-related) event often experience executive dysfunction.
Deafness is the most common disorder of the senses. Tragically, it commonly strikes in early childhood, severely damaging an affected child's ability to learn speech and language. In many cases, children gradually lose their hearing to become profoundly deaf over a long period of months to years, but scientists know very little about how this progressive loss happens, making prospects for prevention and cure very slim. Over half the cases of childhood deafness are estimated to be due to defects in just one gene passed from either the mother or father, and many of these deafness genes have been identified. However, as the way we hear is so complicated, it has been really difficult to work out exactly how these genes cause such wholesale effects. Dr John Oghalai, of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, has been wrestling with this problem for his whole career. His work as a clinician, directing a busy team performing cochlear implants and corrective surgery on the ear and cranium, has armed him with crucial clinical insights which inform his laboratory's research into the causes and treatment of deafness.
Poor or declining handgrip strength in the oldest old is associated with poor survival and may be used as a tool to assess mortality, found an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) The fastest growing segment of the elderly population is the group older than 85 years, classified as the oldest old. Low handgrip strength has been consistently linked to premature mortality, disability and other health complications in middle-aged and older people. Handgrip strength, a simple bedside tool, can be an alternative way of measuring overall muscular strength. This study included 555 individuals from the Leiden 85-plus survey of all 85 year olds in Leiden, The Netherlands. Their handgrip strength was measured at 85 years and then again at 89. The CMAJ study, led by researchers from The Netherlands, found that low handgrip strength, both at 85 and 89 years, and a greater decline in strength over time are associated with increased all-cause mortality. The researchers also found that handgrip strength has a greater impact on mortality as people age.
Computed tomographic colonography (CTC), also known as virtual colonoscopy, remains effective in screening older patients for colorectal cancer (CRC), produces low referral for colonoscopy rates similar to other screening exams now covered by Medicare, and does not result in unreasonable levels of additional testing resulting from extracolonic findings, according to a study published in the February issue of Radiology. CT colonography employs virtual reality technology to produce a three-dimensional visualization that permits a thorough and minimally invasive evaluation of the entire colon and rectum. Previous CTC trials have demonstrated excellent performance in average risk individuals. However, concerns remained that such results may not be applicable to older Medicare beneficiaries. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health analyzed various CTC performance and program outcome measures for screening individuals aged 65-79. "These results confirm that CTC is a safe and effective colorectal cancer screening tool for the older individual.
Studies of alcohol use and cognition among the elderly are rare and have mixed results. A study of drinking among the elderly in Brazil has found that heavy alcohol use is associated with more memory and cognitive problems than mild-to-moderate alcohol use, especially among women. Results will be published in the April 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View. "There is a scarcity of information about alcohol use and the elderly, " said Marcos Antonio Lopes, corresponding author for the study and currently a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, "which needs to be resolved in order to construct a real diagnosis and promote proper health care for this population." Jerson Laks, associate professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro and a researcher with the Brazilian National Committee for Research, agrees. "Alcohol use is frequently an exclusion criterion for any study of cognition and dementia in the elderly, as well as in studies aimed at depression, " he said.
The Wall Street Journal : "The White House, with its health-care initiative in doubt, on Sunday zeroed in on several elements it hoped would survive, including measures to extend the life of Medicare, lower prescription drug costs for seniors and cap consumers' out-of-pocket medical expenses." Obama advisor David Axelrod raised the examples of cuts to health providers to extend Medicare's solvency beyond 2017, tax breaks for small businesses offering insurance, the closing of the Medicare prescription "doughnut hole" and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. "White House officials notably didn't emphasize that any revised legislation should include a major expansion of health insurance" (Adamy, 1/24). The Los Angeles Times notes that, speaking on the ABC's "This Week, " Axelrod said "The president will not walk away from the American people, will not hand them over to the tender mercies of health insurance companies who take advantage." Axelrod's remarks "echoed strategy laid out by Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, in an opinion article Sunday as the administration took steps to save major healthcare legislation.
Weight-bearing exercises may help minimize cognitive decline and impaired mobility in seniors, according to a new study conducted by the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is one of the first randomized controlled trials of progressively intensive resistance training in senior women. Led by Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, researcher at the Centre and assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, the research team found that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training improved executive cognitive function in senior women aged 65 to 75 years old. Executive cognitive functions are cognitive abilities necessary for independent living. "We were able to demonstrate that simple training with weights that seniors can easily handle improved ability to make accurate decisions quickly, " says Liu-Ambrose, who is also a researcher at the Brain Research Centre at UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health.
Antioxidants increasingly have been praised for their benefits against disease and aging, but recent studies at Kansas State University show that they also can cause harm. Researchers in K-State's Cardiorespiratory Exercise Laboratory have been studying how to improve oxygen delivery to the skeletal muscle during physical activity by using antioxidants, which are nutrients in foods that can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to the body. Their findings show that sometimes antioxidants can impair muscle function. "Antioxidant is one of those buzz words right now, " said Steven Copp, a doctoral student in anatomy and physiology from Manhattan and a researcher in the lab. "Walking around grocery stores you see things advertised that are loaded with antioxidants. I think what a lot of people don't realize is that the antioxidant and pro-oxidant balance is really delicate. One of the things we've seen in our research is that you can't just give a larger dose of antioxidants and presume that there will be some sort of beneficial effect.
The Wall Street Journal : "Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, the very embodiment of calm understatement, seems an unlikely character to play the role of scold. But in recent weeks - particularly after last week's Massachusetts mauling - he has been scolding his Democratic Party, and sternly. His message: Democrats and their president need to move decisively to the political center and root themselves there by showing they are serious about controlling spending and the deficit." He also said in an interview that President Obama "needs to 'step it up'" in his Wednesday State of the Union address "and get tougher with Congress" (Seib, 1/26). Politico : "Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Monday that he would oppose any health care reform bill with a national insurance exchange, which he described as a dealbreaker. ... If Senate Democrats still had 60 votes, this would matter a lot. ... But for now, Democrats are trying to write a companion bill to the full Senate legislation that would need only 51 votes in the Senate.