New study may explain how fats damage neurons in Alzheimer's patients

Vitamin E reduced the levels of ceramide and cholesterol, resulting in "a significant decrease in the number of neurons killed by the beta amyloid and oxidative stress. In addition, a small molecule inhibitor of ceramide production had the same effect.

Mattson noted that he and his colleagues are currently using a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease to study the impact that different lipids in the diet might have on learning and memory.

"For the moment, the implications are more for preventing Alzheimer's than for improving outcomes," said Mattson, Chief of NIA's Laboratory of Neurosciences.

Mattson joined other researchers on a panel at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle for a discussion of ways to slow down the onset of Alzheimer's, which is projected to affect more than 13 million older Americans by 2050, unless ways are found to prevent or treat the disease. Susan Resnick, an investigator in the NIA's Laboratory of Personality and Cognition, presented the results of her recently published study regarding a possible link in older men between testosterone levels in the blood and Alzheimer's disease. Carl W. Cotman, a neurochemist in the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the University of California at Irvine, presented work suggesting that the effects of aging on a dog's brain can be reversed by feeding the animals a diet that is high in antioxidants, and exposing them to "cognitive enrichment" activities that make them think. Benjamin Wolozin, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology of the Loyola University School of Medicine, discussed the promise of cholesterol-lowering statins in delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Both Cotman and Wolozin received NIA support for the work they will present at the AAAS event.

In the lipids study, the NIA team compared the brains of young mice to those of older mice in order to establish an association between aging, oxidative stress and increased ceramide and cho

Contact: Monica Amarelo
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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