Discovering how the brain ages

September 12, 2012

Researchers at Newcastle University have revealed the mechanism by which neurons, the nerve cells in the brain and other parts of the body, age. The research, published today in Aging Cell, opens up new avenues of understanding for conditions where the aging of neurons are known to be responsible, such as dementia and Parkinson's disease.

The ageing process has its roots deep within the cells and molecules that make up our bodies. Experts have previously identified the molecular pathway that react to cell damage and stems the cell's ability to divide, known as cell senescence.

However, in cells that do not have this ability to divide, such as neurons in the brain and elsewhere, little was understood of the ageing process. Now a team of scientists at Newcastle University, led by Professor Thomas von Zglinicki have shown that these cells follow the same pathway.

This challenges previous assumptions on cell senescence and opens new areas to explore in terms of treatments for conditions such as dementia, or age-related hearing loss.

Newcastle University's Professor Thomas von Zglinicki who led the research said: "We want to continue our work looking at the pathways in as this study provides us with a new concept as to how damage can spread from the first affected area to the whole brain."

Working with the University's special colony of aged mice, the scientists have discovered that ageing in neurons follows exactly the same rules as in senescing fibroblasts, the cells which divide in the skin to repair wounds.

responses essentially re-program senescent fibroblasts to produce and secrete a host of dangerous substances including or reactive (ROS) and pro-inflammatory signalling molecules. This makes the 'rotten apple in a basket' that can damage and spoil the intact cells in their neighbourhood. However, so far it was always thought that ageing in cells that can't divide - post-mitotic, non-proliferating cells - like neurons would follow a completely different pathway.

Now, this research explains that in fact ageing in neurons follows exactly the same rules as in senescing fibroblasts.

Professor von Zglinicki, professor of Cellular Gerontology at Newcastle University said: "We will now need to find out whether the same mechanisms we detected in mouse brains are also associated with brain ageing and cognitive loss in humans. We might have opened up a short-cut towards understanding brain ageing, should that be the case."

Dr Diana Jurk, who did most of this work during her PhD in the von Zglinicki group, said: "It was absolutely fascinating to see how ageing processes that we always thought of as completely separate turned out to be identical. Suddenly so much disparate knowledge came together and made sense."

Explore further: Telomere stress reveals insight into ageing

More information: Postmitotic neurons develop a p21-dependent senescence-like phenotype driven by a DNA damage response. Aging Cell. DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2012.00870.x. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journa … )1474-9726/earlyview

Related Stories

Telomere stress reveals insight into ageing

March 1, 2012
Scientists at Newcastle University have unlocked clues that give us a greater understanding of the ageing process. 

Researchers move closer to delaying dementia

May 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at University of Queensland's Brain Institute are one step closer to developing new therapies for treating dementia.

Recommended for you

Scientists chart how brain signals connect to neurons

December 14, 2017
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have used supercomputers to create an atomic scale map that tracks how the signaling chemical glutamate binds to a neuron in the brain. The findings, say the scientists, shed light on the dynamic ...

Journaling inspires altruism through an attitude of gratitude

December 14, 2017
Gratitude does more than help maintain good health. New research at the University of Oregon finds that regularly noting feelings of gratitude in a journal leads to increased altruism.

Gene mutation causes low sensitivity to pain

December 13, 2017
A UCL-led research team has identified a rare mutation that causes one family to have unusually low sensitivity to pain.

Activating MSc glutamatergic neurons found to cause mice to eat less

December 13, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers working at the State University of New York has found that artificially stimulating neurons that exist in the medial septal complex in mouse brains caused test mice to eat less. In ...

Scientists discover blood sample detection method for multiple sclerosis

December 13, 2017
A method for quickly detecting signs of multiple sclerosis has been developed by a University of Huddersfield research team.

LLNL-developed microelectrodes enable automated sorting of neural signals

December 13, 2017
Thin-film microelectrode arrays produced at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have enabled development of an automated system to sort brain activity by individual neurons, a technology that could open the door ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.