Science Sunday: Alzheimer’s, Aging and Ethics of Editing the Human Genome

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Its Science Sunday, again!

This week, I’ve pulled a few interesting articles involving Alzheimer’s disease, aging and editing the human genome.

 

A new research article published this month in Science Transitional Medicine shows fully restored memory in mice with Alzheimer’s disease by using a repetitive ultrasound scanning technique to remove accumulated amounts of one of Alzheimer’s known toxins, amyloid-beta. Although not a human trial, this is great news for research in the area of Alzheimers disease. If you’re interested in the field of Alzheimer’s research, much has been published recently. Last month, a study was published that links a protein studied in longevity and aging, klotho, with a protective counter-effect against Alzheimer’s symptoms in spite of the presence of two of Alzheimer’s known, accumulated toxins, amyloid-beta and tau. Klotho is found in cerebrospinal fluid and also naturally decreases in concentration with aging. With more research, klotho has the potential to be considered in drug therapy for the prevention, delay and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Are you interested in longevity and aging research? Many people are, but don’t quite know where to begin or how there is a scientific possibility of life extension. A good starter article can be found here: What Does It Mean to Die of Old Age? Spoiler: We don’t actually die of “old age”.  There are many organisms that do not actually “age” at all. By this, I mean that there are some animals that are just as likely to die today as they are in a few hundred years from today. For a more scientific read, here is more information on the non-aging hydra plant and how its genome revealed the secret to why humans age.

 

Now that we’ve taken a look at aging, a natural “next step” to consider is editing the genome. For many years, ethicists have been debating the positives and negative impacts of such a procedure on society and the individual. At this time, companies like 23andMe and UBiome allow us to take a look at our genetic predispositions in order to (1) know what possibilities are in our genome and, optionally, (2) attempt to prevent these predispositions from manifesting as best we can with holistic practices and prevention. But what would it look like if, prior to conception, DNA within the father’s sperm (remember, we found that father’s gene mutations are expressed far more than mother’s) or within the mother’s egg could be edited to disclude genetic diseases? We are able to and have edited the genome of rats, monkeys and other animals in research experiments. Therefore, the time has finally arrived for the theoretical to manifest into concrete talks of (1) whether or not use is acceptable and/or (2) restrictions, regulations or appropriation of this technology’s use. This month, scientists called to postpone use of this technology, worldwide. To find out more about the background on this technology and current ethical issues, check out this recent New York Times article.

 

And that’s a wrap for Science Sunday!

Are you interested in the biology of aging and longevity?

As always, leave me any interesting studies you find along the way in the comments section below!

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