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The researchers tested mice brains for the secret behind brain cell death.  (Source: Recognizing Deven)

The researchers found an important culprit in the cause of brain cell death -- a tumor killing preventing enzyme surpress AKT (pictured here), a critical protein to cell survival.  (Source: The Institute of Cancer Research)
Nature's kill switch seems to activate for some brain cells but not others, according to researchers

Preventing and reversing memory loss is a key field of research in the area of prolonging human life spans.  While humans are living much longer than they once did, many suffer from debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, which limit their quality of life during their later years.

Scientists at the University of Florida may have gained a significant insight into understanding what causes some brain cells to die, triggering these diseases, while others cells remain alive.  The studies, performed on mice examined two neighboring regions in the hippocampus; an anatomical region shaped something like a curved kidney bean.  The region is thought to be central to the formation of memories, and is one of the first regions affected by brain blood flow problems or Alzheimer's.

What researchers discovered was that the higher susceptibility to cell death in part of the hippocampus versus the other region was due to the enzyme PHLPP, pronounced "flip", silences the transcription of a gene that produces a critical protein to cell survival, AKT.  AKT inhibits many causes of cell death.  The inactivation in essence, amounts to the cell flipping its own kill switch.

Thomas C. Foster, Ph.D., the Evelyn F. McKnight chair for research on aging and memory at UF describes, "The question is why does one set of brain cells live and another set die when they are only millimeters apart in the same small brain structure?  We looked at an important signaling pathway that tells cells to stay alive or die, and the enzymes that regulate that pathway. Implicated in all this is a new protein that before a couple of years ago no one actually knew much about."

The conclusions were drawn by first finding AKT levels to be a key chemical difference between the living and dying cells.  From there, the cause of the AKT shortage was traced to high levels of the enzyme PHLPP1, the mouse version of PHLPP, an enzyme found in other mammals.  Ironically, the recently discovered enzyme suppresses tumors in many cases.  The compound was discovered by Alexandra Newton, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego.

Professor Newton comments on the new research, stating, "Basically, PHLPP is important in controlling whether cells survive and proliferate or die.  If you want cells to survive brain disease, diabetes or heart disease, you want active AKT signaling and therefore low PHLPP. But if you want to stop cells that have the 'go' signal, like cancer cells, PHLPP can function as a brake. In this case, it appears as if there is an area in the hippocampus that is easily stressed and might undergo ischemia easily, because PHLPP is not allowing the AKT survival mechanism to work."

According to Professor Foster, the breakthrough could lead to new drugs to combat memory loss and brain damage.  He states, "Possibly, we have found a target that could be manipulated with drugs so that these brain cells can be saved from threats.  If one area of the hippocampus has a deficiency in cell-survival signaling, it is possible to find a way to ramp up the AKT protein. The caveat is, there are studies that show over-activating AKT may not be good for memory — AKT may be naturally lower in this region for an important reason. But in times of intense damage, there may be a therapeutic window to upregulate AKT and get some benefit to health."

It is still unknown why some regions of the brain flip the switch to trigger cell death, while others, which appear equally vulnerable to tumor formation, do not.

The research is published online in the Nature publication Cell Death & Differentiation.  

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By menace on 12/12/2008 9:48:38 AM , Rating: 5
This breakthrough may come just in time for me to keep...

what was the article about again?

RE: Hope
By Whiskyboy on 12/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope
By icanhascpu on 12/12/2008 10:56:18 AM , Rating: 5
Nothing wrong with humor if its tasteful, and that wasnt without some taste.

Life in general is pretty horrible without humor for any hopeless/near hopless situation.

RE: Hope
By maverick85wd on 12/12/2008 3:54:54 PM , Rating: 3
Agree fully.
My Grandmother keeps joking to me about getting old and gaining the ability to hide her own Easter eggs, and how she's excited to meet new people every day. It's become somewhat of an inside joke, but the point is that if you don't laugh while you can, that part of your life you decided to deny yourself a little joy has just been wasted. Kinda like one of my favorite quotes, "Every sixty seconds spent mad is a minute of happiness you will never get back"

RE: Hope
By menace on 12/12/2008 4:12:24 PM , Rating: 3
Oh give me a break, you folks are being way too sensitive.

I have poor short term memory and it seems to get worse every year. The same is true for many people as they age. I always walk out the door empty handed even when I tell myself "Don't forge to bring X" just two minutes earlier. I do wish there was a magic drug to fix that. That is the spirit the joke was intended. It is just an exaggeration of that common situation. I think the rating reflects that most people get it.

I had an aunt who had Alzheimers and I know that is nothing to joke about.

RE: Hope
By maverick85wd on 12/12/2008 5:02:58 PM , Rating: 2
you folks are being way too sensitive.

I had an aunt who had Alzheimers and I know that is nothing to joke about.

contradict much?

My point is that you can't take life too seriously. My Grandma jokes about memory loss, and I think it's hillarious.

RE: Hope
By JonnyDough on 12/12/2008 10:28:04 PM , Rating: 5
Dude, the guy forgot his original point. Leave him alone. He's got memory loss!

For those of you who don't know the difference: Please note that I didn't say he has memory LOSE, or memory LOOSE as that would just crazy.

RE: Hope
By Ytsejamer1 on 12/15/2008 9:27:32 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah peeps...get a sense of humor. My grandmother has been battling Alzheimer's Disease for the last five years. It's been a slow decline and a heartbreaking one for our family. She's days away from passing. I almost welcome it at this point because it's definitely no way to live. But I can appreciate humor as well. If you can't, that's fine...but people that DO use humor to keep their spirits up or whatever are good too!

With that, I leave you all with my favorite Alzheimer's joke.

Q: What's ONE good thing about having Alheimer's?

A: You can hide your own easter eggs! :-)

RE: Hope
By Samus on 12/12/2008 6:47:59 PM , Rating: 1
poor mice :(

RE: Hope
By jadeskye on 12/13/2008 7:00:19 PM , Rating: 2
i agree but breakthroughs have to come some way =(

at least there will still be plenty of cute mice when they get around to curing this horrible affliction =)

RE: Hope
By cete on 12/16/2008 11:02:25 AM , Rating: 1
Somebody stopped me once as I was getting into my car, and asked me: "excuse me, what's the name of that disease that makes you forget things?". I replied immediately, trying hard not to laugh, and the person apologized for interrupting me.

RE: Hope
By MatthiasF on 12/12/2008 7:15:21 PM , Rating: 3
Should be mentioned that this article in Nature is complete bullshit science and it's release was meant to distract from the real cause of Alzheimer's disease discovered by a separate group.

To paraphrase the article, samples were taken of the plaques that cause Alzheimer's and the DNA found inside was overwhelmingly (90%) the herpes simplex virus.

This is the second study done by the group that began to lead scientists away from genetics into environmental influences and it seems they were correct.

RE: Hope
By JonnyDough on 12/12/2008 10:31:56 PM , Rating: 2
You got rated down one. :-\ Although I think you may actually have a valid point.

HPV (of which there are over 100 types, several are defined within as a type of "herpes") have been known to cause all sorts of problems, many symptoms of which have yet to be discovered. We have a long way to go in understanding what HPV is and what it's doing to us. Some types of HPV can cause cancer of nearly any organ, this we know already.

My cat has a type of feline herpes which weakens her immune system but is non-transferable to humans.

RE: Hope
By MatthiasF on 12/13/2008 1:50:37 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, a majority of cancers are caused by some form of virus increasing cell defects either directly or indirectly in many ways.

As far as the rating down, it was my own fault. I used the S word and it auto rates down for filthy language.

Sorry to hear about your cat. My two dogs growing up as a child both had kidney damage that we believe was caused by HPV. Most humans are infected by some form of HPV and don't realize it (even the chaste), while some forms can be transferred between animals. Kind of made my guilty when I learned this, thinking we might have passed something off to them.

RE: Hope
By Gibsons on 12/13/2008 1:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
About 10-20 percent of human cancers are attributed to some sort of virus. There are always some other contributing factors as well, since not everyone who gets a particular virus gets cancer.

RE: Hope
By MatthiasF on 12/14/2008 5:06:33 PM , Rating: 2
I think the number of cancers directly attributed to viruses is closer to 30%, but I also stated indirectly.

Viruses and bacteria can still cause cell defects by stealing resources in areas where new cells are trying to grow, or even causing the body to attack itself in those regions.

RE: Hope
By William Gaatjes on 12/13/2008 5:18:19 AM , Rating: 2
I agree fully... When one lookes at how sophisticated cellular life is, one can not deny that an external factor must be of more importance then typical cell aging. Dna damage is so common that our cells are packed with genes and proteins to repair that damage or the cell will be killed. I do wonder if the cell has a killswitch because it is programmed to "live" or that the cell has a deadman button meaning that if anything goes wrong just completely shutdown. Why, since the most important rule is energy conservation in physics i believe the latter. Life must go on and cannot stop and therefore needs to be stopped when something goes wrong to prevent runaway actions compromising the collective of cells. In this case the body of a mouse... When does something go wrong ? Energetic elektromagnetic waves or particles disturb the internal machinery responsible for gene expression. Virusses use physics like all life to control this internal machinery, using electromagnetic energy or the typical behaviour of particles in elements. Each element has a specific behaviour and can be used like a program language when the rules are understood. Knowing that our bodies are pact with protection layers like a typical onion, i do believe that external factors are the cause of decay and in the end death... It is logical, since we have to share the planet with every living entity on it and share resources. From a certain point of view we are always defending and repairing. This we call healing something we do from the day we are born untill the day we depart... Since we still must obey the laws of nature, death is a natural thing. We use up energy and therefore we would die even when no external factors are accounted for. When dna is fully understood and all the rules of physics are perfectly known, We may rewrite our own dna to even overcome that obstacle. But would it be wise ? Only if we decide to swarm the universe, since time is not on our side.

There is once mentioned in a holy book that people would live to be very old. These people must have had perfect immune systems and better dna then people do now because those people had to live with other life as well.

At the moment we cannot make a live recording of what is going on in the body without disturbing the body. When we are capable of this, people will see that the body is invaded all the time by hostile life.

RE: Hope
By Gibsons on 12/13/2008 12:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
The article is in Cell Death and Differentiation and it's not "complete bull... science." You haven't even read it, have you?

FYI, Alzheimer's is mentioned once in the entire article, in the introduction. It's the following sentence:

"Studies on the human brain show that area CA1 of the hippocampus is one of the earliest brain regions to develop the pathological markers associated with Alzheimer’s disease,9 and the rodent models have correlated disease pathology to CA1 neuronal loss.10"

Now, you state the article is "complete bulls... science." Okay, what experimental errors did they make? Did they neglect any controls? Are any of their conclusions unwarranted from the data they present?

How do you know their motive was "to distract?" They found regional differences in the ability of some neurons ability to survive and may have found a mechanism underlying that difference. They made no claims regarding a cause for Alzheimer's.

RE: Hope
By MatthiasF on 12/14/2008 5:02:21 PM , Rating: 2
First of all, the study focused on the region of the brain used for creating memories (hippocampus). What other popular diseases revolve around memory?

Second of all, the logic behind the study is flawed. They're trying to prove that cell death is caused by a lack of a protein which can be reversed by using an enzyme that regulates it's creation. But why isn't the enzyme being created in these regions? Is it normal, a part of a cyclical process to make room in a tight region for new, fresh cells? Is it abnormal, caused by genetics, infection, etc.?

The study doesn't answer any helpful questions. It uses a lot of big words to report that a common cell process does indeed happen in this particular part of the brain and that some of the cells there are dying because of it.

The study organizers no doubt selected the region of the brain and the ease of proving their hypothesis to make some quick easy Alzheimer's research money.

RE: Hope
By Gibsons on 12/14/2008 6:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
Most of your questions are answered in the paper, so I'll assume you still haven't read it.

As for this comment: "Quick easy Alzheimer's research money." ha.

They did an enormous amount of work to get their data and showed a lot more than you seem to think. There are 8 figures in it, a few of which look to be months worth of work. Multiple repeats of some fairly difficult experiments. The results demonstrate a hell of a lot more than what's mentioned in the abstract or the blog post. Read the paper and find out for yourself. I'll warn you it's not an easy read.

Finally, if you think grant money is so easy to come by, apply for a grant yourself. You'll be rolling in grant money in no time, right?

RE: Hope
By michaelheath on 12/15/2008 1:10:51 AM , Rating: 2
I think it's irrational to call one study 'truth' and another 'bullshit' when we're still discovering how most of the human brain works. We're still figuring out how rats' brains work, and their CNS is significantly simpler than ours. A smart scientist would consider the possibility that there might be more than one contributing factor to a particular disease, or there's possibly many more undiscovered variances in human physiology that may affect who contracts Alzheimer's disease.

I suggest you re-read both articles, as it seems to me that neither is conclusive, seeing as how the words 'suggest' and 'likely' are used by both research teams. In fact, those who published their findings about HSV1 and Alzheimer's seems to be looking for more funding "...for further reaserch." They have a theory, and, like any scientist, they have to find out whether that theory has any merit. Progress has been made, but they're far from done.

Oh that's just perfect....
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/12/2008 11:00:45 AM , Rating: 2
I spend years exercising my brain... making it stronger, better, and even give it a vacation once in a while....

So, in turn what do I get.... a bunch of brain cells committing suicide. Well at least it explains why I did not ace physics.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By Mitch101 on 12/12/2008 12:24:50 PM , Rating: 3
Im using the Cliff Clavin's Theory of Beer

"A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. When the herd is hunted, the slow and weak at the back are killed first. The speed and health of the herd keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

"In the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as its slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. Naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first.

"In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By Dreifort on 12/12/2008 1:13:20 PM , Rating: 2
What happened to all the theory’s that aluminum was a source of alzheimers?

I remember when my grandmother developed alzheimers, my mom read reports about canned soda, tea, etc were causing alzheimers due to their high levels of aluminum. She stopped drinking tea for a year... until she came to her senses.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By CurseTheSky on 12/12/2008 1:23:10 PM , Rating: 2
Another theory, if I remember correctly, was related to zinc oxide or something similar found in antiperspirants.

No idea what happened to those theories, though.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By JonnyDough on 12/12/2008 10:34:41 PM , Rating: 2
Aluminum salts, zinc oxide may be another name for it. Or perhaps it's a substitute. I too heard that aluminum caused Alzheimer's.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By BruceLeet on 12/12/2008 1:43:09 PM , Rating: 2
Or the simple saying of "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link".

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By Strunf on 12/12/2008 2:39:54 PM , Rating: 2
Yes however once all your weakest/slowest cells are killed there will be only good ones left to be killed, and your brain cells aren't like a herd that keeps replacing its members.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By JonnyDough on 12/12/2008 10:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
You hit the beer belly on the...uhh button? Brain cells are basically irreplaceable. The more you drink the dumber you get. Same goes with anything that starves your brain of oxygen or alters the chemical balance of your brain cells. Smoking pot to get high your whole life will ultimately leave you dumber than a box of rocks.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By myhipsi on 12/15/2008 12:53:59 PM , Rating: 2
Brain cells are basically irreplaceable. The more you drink the dumber you get.

I've known drinkers who are smart and I have known abstainers who are complete idiots. I don't think intelligence or "dumbness" can be explained in such simplistic terms. The brain will atrophy if not used, just like muscles will atrophy if not used. So technically not thinking is more damaging to the brain than drinking.

Same goes with anything that starves your brain of oxygen or alters the chemical balance of your brain cells.

Then I guess half of all the pharmaceutical drugs on the market make you dumb because they alter the chemical balance of your brain. Oh, and so does getting angry or sad or happy... you get my point. Just because a drug or chemical alters the brain in some way, doesn't mean it'll make you "dumb".

Smoking pot to get high your whole life will ultimately leave you dumber than a box of rocks.

Please explain to me how Tetrahydrocannabinol or any other chemical constituant in pot makes you "dumb". Do you know anything about the pharmacology of cannabis? I think not, as you wouldn't have made such an ignorant statement if you did.

By William Gaatjes on 12/15/2008 3:05:26 PM , Rating: 2
Although it primarily depends on the person(genetic code and lifestyle),it is known that with some people prolonged exposure can slow down the ability to learn, it limits the short term memory. With some other people , it makes them lazy, which in the end makes them not do anything : "The brain will atrophy if not used, just like muscles will atrophy if not used. So technically not thinking is more damaging to the brain than drinking."
With other people, it makes them more at ease and they learn faster. There has even been a study done a few years back that the THC chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol can be benificial because with some people it destroys there bad memories. In other words it helps you forget what you need to forget.

I am guessing here but sometimes it looks like that for every biological occuring chemical humans have some dna that is activated by it. I say humans but i must strongly point at the fact that this happens with every living animal. It seems that dna is possibly swapped and replaced all the time. Horizontal gene ransfers may be the reason and may be more occuring. Since horizontal gene transfers can cross species boundaries, something vertical gene transfers (aka using sex to create offspring) can not do.
Most of these changes are corrected by the cells dna repair mechanisms but some changes are permanent. Some of these changes are lethal to the cell, some changes do not bother it's function unless a specific chemical drops by...

To sum it up it is not that simple.

RE: Oh that's just perfect....
By Spectator on 12/14/2008 9:17:10 AM , Rating: 2

I like that logic :) Im keep on drinking :)

I never understood (yes im drunk). simple logic like if we evolve as darwin suggested. why we only use 5%(my case) of our brain??. How does that sht work with natural selection?(ohh wait.. its the government bailing out the weak.. i mean. breaking the laws of selection/capatalism).. Chukkle

I don't want to live that long
By omgwtf8888 on 12/12/2008 1:30:50 PM , Rating: 2
We had a discussion about all the scientific improvements to extend life, and even the possibility of a pill that could let you live for 400 years. Here is the problem! If you live to be 400, they can't let you retire at 65. No! You would have to work until you were 350 years old. Think about going to that cubicle for 350 years... imagine the dust? Anything you could possibly do would become so boring after hundreds of years. Forget about suicide brain cells, I think you would opt for the solient green program.. It's People!

RE: I don't want to live that long
By jkresh on 12/12/2008 3:05:39 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct that retiring at 65 if you are going to live to 400 is unlikely for most people (certainly not on a pension) but if you have enough money you could (though I suspect even billionaires would go back to work at some point).
As for working in that "cubicle for 350 years", how many jobs today existed 350 years ago (or are similar in form)? You would switch jobs and things would change as new technology came out new jobs would become available (and old ones would disappear). While I would agree that some people would have difficulty adjusting I think a significant percentage could adapt (and after a generation or to when people begin to grow up with the idea of living that long then most would adapt).

All that being said while there are some interesting things in labs that suggest at radical life extension in the near future, there are also a lot of problems that will need to be addressed first, and likely unforeseeable issues (ie diseases or aging related things that we haven't seen because people don't live long enough now that will show up when we start living past 150...)

By JonnyDough on 12/12/2008 10:44:50 PM , Rating: 3
You have to take into account a few things.

First, quality of life over a long time frame improves. You will get really good at your job. You will accumulate wealth as well. Furthermore, you will be more educated and become a better teacher to others - so that they learn to value you more, and as a society we might progress better.

People would see things in a more long-term perspective. We would stop letting politicians get away with short term fixes perhaps. We would war less maybe...etc.

Take for example, kids today who live recklessly. If you warn them about how a choice they make may affect them for the rest of their life, they don't listen because they don't care. They "don't want to live to be that old. It's gross, and life will suck."

But, if you're walking around at 300 yrs old and are happy, they'll look at you and maybe want to be there someday. The gravity of their choice may weigh in a bit more, because they'll have to consider living with that choice for a much much longer period of time. By the time they decide to do something stupid to themselves, maybe they'll be educated enough not to. I can't imagine getting smarter for 300 years and then acting like a total jackass.

If Only!!!
By Gzus666 on 12/12/2008 5:03:11 PM , Rating: 2
If the brain cells would accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior and stop sinning by committing suicide, they would be saved. Maybe we should start brain cell churches and missions to convert the heathen brain cells?

RE: If Only!!!
By garbageacc3 on 12/13/2008 8:59:49 AM , Rating: 1
If you had more brain cells then you wouldn't believe in stupid shit like religion dumbass.

RE: If Only!!!
By HVAC on 12/13/2008 4:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
Someone didn't get the memo ...

we're doomed no matter what?
By Dreifort on 12/12/2008 12:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
so... is the article saying, you have a choice?

get cancer or get alzheimers? I am just wondering if they have studies of patients that may have had both cancer and still develop alzheimers?

RE: we're doomed no matter what?
By Smartless on 12/12/2008 12:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
We could always raise sharks with big brains.

I dunno
By Totally on 12/12/2008 1:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no religious nut but something about "nature's kill switch" say's leave it alone. I mean do we really need to live that long.

RE: I dunno
By HVAC on 12/12/2008 3:05:33 PM , Rating: 2
I am glad someone said something like this. I do not address the "... really need to live that long." part, but about tinkering with "nature's kill switch."

The western medicine and industrialization culture is bent on finding problems and addressing them with synthesized medicines. This is not in itself a huge issue until we realize that the human body and indeed life itself is more complex than we want to understand.

We have found that there is money in treating symptoms and in providing patentable treatments. There is less money in addressing causes and in researching and dispersing information about problem prevention.

In this particular case, the article discusses disabling brain cell suicide without really understanding why it is happening or the effects of interfering with it. Perhaps failing to kill certain brain cells has a more insidious effect than allowing cell death and the ensuing Alzheimer's.

By omgitsLong on 12/12/2008 1:31:12 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like my hours of folding finally bring great results!!

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