A new study by researchers at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine dramatically underscores the potential role of the NF-kB protein in aging. NF-kB is a master protein which controls many inflammatory chemicals throughout the body. Researchers at the Roskamp Institute have studied NF-kB for many years as a potential way of controlling chronic inflammation which accompanies aging and underlies conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. This new study points to a part of the brain as regulating the aging process. The current view of aging generally suggests that enzymes, DNA, proteins and other constituents of the body essentially “wear out” with age, accumulating damage due to environmental insults until they no longer function properly. This new study suggests something quite different, namely that a part of the brain called the Hypothalamus deliberately induces aging throughout the body. It has been suggested that one reason why the brain might take such drastic action is to inhibit reproduction past a certain age. This suggestion is highly speculative at this stage, but the data offered by the Albert Einstein researchers suggests that, with age, increased NF-kB activity triggers degeneration in both the brain and other areas of the body. The researchers showed that as mice aged, they increasingly expressed NF-kB in the part of the brain that is normally responsible for the production of reproductive and growth hormones. The researchers artificially manipulated NF-kB activity using genetic techniques and showed that reducing NF-kB activity was associated with better performance in cognitive tests, greater muscle strength and greater bone mass and skin thickness. Conversely, exacerbation of NF-kB activity increased all of these peripheral signs of aging, as well as reducing cognitive abilities. Furthermore the research suggested that microglia (the inflammatory cells resident in the brain) are the originators of the NF-kB activity and this spreads to nearby neurons, including those responsible for growth and reproductive hormones. These findings are of direct significance to work at the Roskamp Institute as researchers there have shown that increased NF-kB collates strongly with Alzheimer’s pathology and pathology of other central nervous system disorders. Moreover, they have worked extensively on ways to reduce NF-kB activation, particularly using the naturally occurring compound Anatabine.  Roskamp Institute researchers have shown in multiple preclinical studies of neuroinflammation (such as Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury and Multiple Sclerosis) that Anatabine (supplied by RockCreek Pharmaceuticals) has potent anti-inflammatory properties. This new finding suggests that NFKB inhibitors might also have a role in decelerating aging. In fact,  preliminary studies at the Roskamp Institute suggest that mortality in mice with Alzheimer pathology is reduced by Anatabine treatment. Additional studies are needed to clarify whether Anatabine might reduce the Hypothalamic inflammation and increase the release of hormones that oppose aging.

Dr. Michael Mullan M.D., Ph.D
President & CEO
Roskamp Institute
Dementia robs individuals of their memory, mental function, and social interaction skills. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a form of dementia that is easily distinguishable from the others. This neurodegenerative disease includes early signs that are consistent with each patient and involves the loss of short term memory. Recently presented information will evaporate after a short period of time for Alzheimer’s patients.

Individuals in the early stages of AD will have a hard time retaining any fresh information presented to them. Forgetting what they talked about on the phone only a few minutes ago or arriving at the grocery store with no recollection of what they planned on purchasing are just simple examples of how AD can impact the daily routine of an individual’s life.

In today’s society, technology is a leading source of knowledge. Computers, televisions, radios, and phones are regularly used to distribute ideas and provide the latest updates about the happenings around the world. Because of this, Alzheimer’s disease patients are at a disadvantage since they lack the ability to store these current events in their memory. An individual’s incapability to remember any updates about current events, such as the presidential election or the Olympics, can be an early sign of the disease and should serve as a trigger for visiting a memory disorder clinic for an evaluation.

The Roskamp Institute, with one location in Sarasota, Florida and one in Tampa, Florida, offers full evaluations for Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of memory loss.

For the original article, please visit http://www.roskampinstitute.us/articles/archives/39.

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Wendy Liu

August 2, 2012