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Week in Health: Age-related memory loss different from Alzheimer’s

Plus: A new test for colon cancer shows promise.

Is it old age, or something more? Credit: Digital Vision Is it old age, or something more?
Credit: Digital Vision

More evidence that age-related memory loss is different from Alzheimer’s

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Cadavers and mice

Results: Researchers think they’ve found what could be the prime cause of age-related memory loss — and it confirms a previously found distinction between memory loss due to aging and that of Alzheimer’s. Using postmortem human brain cells and those from mice, the Columbia University Medical Center study found that deficiency of the RbAp48 protein in the hippocampus significantly contributes to age-related memory loss, and that this form of memory loss is reversible. Alzheimer’s disease, however, damages memory by affecting the entorhinal cortex, a brain region that provides major input pathways to the hippocampus. The findings were published on the online edition of Science Translational Medicine.

Significance: Previously, age-related memory loss was thought to be a precursor or symptom of the onset of Alzheimer’s. “Our study provides compelling evidence that age-related memory loss is a syndrome in its own right, apart from Alzheimer’s,” says Nobel Prize winner Dr. Eric R. Kandel, who led the study.

Cardiac stents found to be safe for women

Location of study: Worldwide

Study subjects: 11,557 women

Results:Because clinical trials testing stents have mostly included men, cardiologists haven’t felt confident that women could benefit from them. However, according to researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center, they can be safe and effective for women, too. The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2013 in Amsterdam.

Significance: Cardiac stents are inserted to open blocked heart arteries and reduce chest pain.

Native Americans at increased risk of PTSD

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Native Americans

Results: Post-traumatic stress disorder is more common among Native Americans than among other Americans, according to a study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver used two tests to estimate the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in two culturally distinct Native American reservation communities.

Significance: “For years, local wisdom has told us that PTSD is all-too-common among American Indians,” says Dr. Jan Beals of the University of Colorado Denver. “[Our research] underscores the increased risk due to repeated exposure to traumatic events.” In general, in the wider U.S. population, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD is estimated to be 7 to 8 percent.

New noninvasive colon cancer screening method shows promise

Location of study: Germany

Study subjects: 80 human colon tissue samples

Results: A new colon cancer-screening test that detects genetic variations could be an accurate predictor of colon cancer, according to a study conducted at the University of Potsdam and published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. The test detects cancer-initiating genetic mutations in a stool sample and shows promise for an easily implemented, early colon cancer detection test that’s noninvasive and an alternative to colonoscopies.

Significance: About 40 to 60 percent of colorectal cancer patients have genetic variations in the genes APC and KRAS, and these variations are also present in precancers. “Colon precancer cells carrying these genetic variations are routinely shed in stool samples, but these cells can be detected in blood only after the cancer has advanced, so stool is better than blood if we are to catch these cancers at a very early stage,” says Dr. Bettina Scholtka, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Toxicology at the University of Potsdam.

 
 
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