Research on Genetic Treatment,Walking (and In Memory of Creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle)

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I grew up watching Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right. Dad often joined me to sit around the TV and enjoy the challenges that these characters faced. Now we learn in a Washington Post story that the trio’s creator, Alex Anderson, has died from Alzheimer’s disease. His death adds to the list of those who have battled the disease and lost, most notably Rita Hayworth, Ronald Reagan, Charles Bronson, Barry Goldwater, Perry Como, Aaron Copland, Charlton Heston, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez. With that said, I’d like to update you on some of the latest news concerning Alzheimer’s.

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    Promising Research on Genetic Treatment

    A story in the Los Angeles Times last week reported that Yale researchers may have come up with a potential treatment. They believe that inhibiting a protein known as striatal-enriched tyrosine phosphatase (STEP), which is seen in high levels in humans with Alzheimer’s, may help reverse the disease’s effects. The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved tests on two sets of mice which were genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease. However, one of these groups was also genetically engineered to have reduced STEP protein levels. The researchers discovered that the mice with the reduced STEP levels eventually could complete the same task in the same time as mice without Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe that the excess STEP damages glutamate receptors, which are critical to the formation of long-term memories. While promising, additional research needs to be conducted, especially in relation to whether similar results would be achieved in humans.

    Walking May be Good Preventive Measure

    So while we’re waiting for that to happen, what can we do? Turns out you can go for a walk as a way to ward off Alzheimer’s. CBS News reported on a new study by the University of Pittsburgh, which found that walking six miles a week can protect the brain and improve memory.  After studying a group of older adults over a nine-year period, researchers found that older adults who had more active lifestyles maintained more brain mass.   Time Magazine reported that these volunteers were tested for dementia four years later. Among the group of 299 study participants, 116 showed signs of memory loss or dementia. “Those who had walked the most – at least 72 city blocks (or about 7 mi.) each week – were half as likely to have cognitive problems as those who walked the least,” reporter Meredith Melnick wrote.

    CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton offered a hypothesis for why walking makes a difference. “What’s good for your heart, what’s good for your waistline, also likely is good for your brain. The factor of matter is, we really don’t understand fully what causes dementia and Alzheimer’s, so right now the best we have are associations and factors that seem to be associated with a protective effect,” she said. “What this study actually found, the gray matter, the part of the brain that holds the nerve cell bodies responsible for things like memory and speech and emotion, did not shrink as likely they do with all of us as we age in the people who tended to walk the most.”

Published On: October 29, 2010