Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Research Update: Gender, mRNA, and Aging Gray Matter

Gender and the Aging Brain

By Richard Shank

From "Aging in Action (Mather Lifeways)"

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine report that the brains of men and women age differently. Their postmortem study indicates that, not only do the genes of men’s brains change earlier than in women’s brains, but the types of changes that occur also differ between the sexes.

The research involved collecting brains from people who had died between the ages of 20 and 99. The researchers isolated mRNA (messenger RNA) which carries instructions for building the proteins that helps the brain communicate with the rest of the body. (Active genes produce higher levels of mRNA). They discovered that disease-susceptible parts of the brain have the least amount of change in gene activity with age. The area of the brain responsible for perception (postcentral gyrus) changes the most.

Men showed more changes in metabolic activity while women showed greater change in genes that establish neural connections and control information exchange. This implies that the energy levels in the brain are more likely to decline in men, and that lifestyle and medical interventions should be targeted toward enhancing metabolic function in the brain of men.

Source: Cotman, C. Berchtold, N. October 2008. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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