UMN research finds genetic link to brain aging
University of Minnesota researchers hope the recent discovery of a gene that prevents aging in the brain could help them develop better anti-aging drugs in the future. The researchers identified a certain allele — an alternate form of a gene — that preserves brain cells in what they are calling a “breakthrough” finding, according to a report published in the EBioMedicine journal last month. The study compared the amount of grey matter in the brains of two cognitively healthy groups of women — those with the gene allele and those without it — affiliated with the Minnesota Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “In the group that did not have the allele, they saw what you would expect in terms of brain aging,” said Lisa James, a study author and University professor of Women’s Healthy Aging in the Department of Neuroscience. “[In] the people that did have this allele, there was no atrophy.” Researchers wanted to study participants with good cognitive health so they could generalize their findings to the wider population, said Lisa James, a researcher at the University’s Brain Sciences Center. In the future, researchers hope this discovery will serve as a platform for a drug that could prevent brain aging. Current research in the Brain Sciences Center is replicating the study with more participants, including both men and women.