BEIJING, Dec. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- Scientists have discovered
a gene variant that is linked to long life also helps to preserve mental
lucidity in old age.
with this "supergene" have a much higher chance of living to age 90 and beyond
without developing dementia, the confused thinking and memory loss that so often
plagues the oldest of the old, said Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for
Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
Barzilai and his colleagues had found that centenarians
were much more likely than others to have the gene variant, called CETP VV.
People with the gene variant seemed to age slowly and were able to resist
life-shortening ailments such as heart disease.
To see whether the gene protected the brain too,
the team studied 158 people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent who were
95 or older. A brain function test found that seniors who had inherited
the gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function -- able to think
clearly and remember new information -- as seniors without the gene.
To see whether the gene protected against Alzheimer's, the
team did a second study. A group of 124 Ashkenazi Jews aged 75 to 85 were
followed for about eight years. Researchers noted any time a senior received a
diagnosis of dementia. Participants who never developed dementia were five times
more likely to have the favorable gene than those who did have dementia.
The researchers don't know yet how the supergene protects
people. Previous research has shown that the gene could affect the size of the
lipoproteins in the blood that deposit or clear away cholesterol. People with
the gene variant tend to be at less risk of clogged arteries, Barzilai said.
The insights into how ageing affects the brain could lead
to ways of protecting cognitive function in old age.
If drugs could be developed which mimic the protective
function of the CETP VV variant they could transform the quality of life of the