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Nature24 June 2004

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Ageing: Death begins at 40...

The molecular basis of the cognitive decline that accompanies ageing is a major unresolved issue. Now a DNA microarray analysis of the human ageing brain reveals that a defined set of genes is downregulated in ageing — and that the rot sets in at 40. Postmortem brain samples were taken from individuals aged between 26 and 106 years. The genes identified as age-linked play a role in, among other things, synaptic plasticity — the ability of neurons to make and break connections with one another. These genes experience progressive increase in DNA damage (and faulty repair) to promoter regions, rather than simply changing their function. So DNA damage may reduce expression of selectively vulnerable genes involved in learning, memory and neuronal survival.

letters to nature
Gene regulation and DNA damage in the ageing human brain
TAO LU, YING PAN, SHYAN-YUAN KAO, CHENG LI, ISAAC KOHANE, JENNIFER CHAN & BRUCE A. YANKNER
Nature 429, 883–891 (2004); doi:10.1038/nature02661
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24 June 2004 table of contents

  
  © 2004 Nature Publishing Group