It’s important to stay abreast of innovations in medical care. Scientists are constantly looking to push the frontier of human capabilities and lifespan. Straight, No Chaser has previously looked at gene therapy and stem cell research, which likely will be important considerations in eradicating disease. However, what about quality of life considerations? What good is a longer lifespan without the ability to have a functioning brain. Alzheimer’s and dementia have befuddled us for as long as we’ve known the diagnosis.
Think about some of the inconsistencies of Alzheimer’s disease for a second.
- People seem to develop it only with aging (i.e., only the elderly are affected).
- Only some people are affected. Others live into well into age 90 and over 100 without being affected.
- Some individuals are mildly affected, and others are severely affected.
Harvard researchers have recently discovered a protein in the brain that could lead to modification (if not an overhaul) of our treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia. In short, the protein, known as REST (short for RE1-Silencing Transcription factor) works to protect aging nerve cells from brain toxins and other stressors that progress aging and malfunctioning of the brain, symptoms of which we recognize as dementia. It appears that this protein is absent from critical areas of the brain in individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Given the combination of the absence of REST and sufficient stressors to the brain that produces the debilitating symptoms, further research will look at the effects and the timing of replacing REST in those susceptible and affected by dementia at various stages. If this discovery provides even a few years of retained high mental and physical capabilities, it would provide a welcome advance in science and relief to the over five million affected in just the U.S. alone.
Stay tuned for further developments.
Post-script: Speaking of REST, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that research also shows failure to obtain adequate sleep throughout your life seems to accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s. Don’t sleep on that fact …
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