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Enriched environment delays onset of Alzheimer's in mice

A research group based at the University of Chicago has found that an enriched environment -- in this case more chances to exercise, explore and interact with others can dramatically reduce the biological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease in mice that are genetically predisposed to the disorder.

In the 11 March 2005 issue of Cell, the researchers show that mice raised in a deluxe setting large cages filled with running wheels, colored tunnels and multiple toys -- had much less of the beta-amyloid peptides that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease deposited in their brains and far lower levels of these damaging peptides in their blood than genetically similar mice raised in a standard environment.

Mice from enriched settings also had more of an enzyme that breaks down amyloid as well as increased activity of several genes involved in learning and memory, brain cell survival and the growth of new blood vessels.

"We have plenty of epidemiological evidence connecting activity, exercise and education with later onset of Alzheimer's, but it has never been clear which came first," said study-author Sangram Sisodia, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology, pharmacology and physiology at the University of Chicago. "Did the active lifestyle delay disease, or was there something inherent in a disease-resistant brain that led to a mentally and physically active lifestyle?"

"This is the first demonstration," he said, "in a genetically clean, carefully controlled animal model showing that an enhanced environment can have such a tremendously beneficial impact, protecting the brain from the pathological hallmarks of this insidious disease."

These findings support a "potentially causal inverse relationship between a more engaging, enriched life and AD progression," note Stanislav Karsten and Daniel Geschwind of UCLA in an accompanying editorial. They also provide "clear initial directions for exploring the role of the environmen
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Contact: John Easton
John.Easton@uchospitals.edu
773-702-6141
University of Chicago Medical Center
10-Mar-2005


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