Aging is the single greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. In their latest study, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that simply slowing the aging process in mice prone to develop Alzheimer's disease prevented their brains from turning into a neuronal wasteland.
"Our study opens a whole new avenue of looking at the disease," says the study's leader, Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Andrea Dillin, PhD, a professor in the Salk Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory. "Going forward, looking at the way we age may actually have more impact on the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease than studying the basic biology of the disease itself."
Their finding, published in the Dec. 11, 2009 issue of the journal Cell, is the latest clue in the Salk scientists' ongoing quest to shed light on the question of whether Alzheimer's disease onset late in life is a disastrous consequence of the aging process itself or whether the beta amyloid aggregates that cause the disease simply take a long time to form.
Age is the major risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease. Beyond age 65, the number of people with the disease doubles every five years. Centenarians, however, seem to escape most common age-related diseases, including the ravages of Alzheimer's disease.