Genetic Mutation Accelerates The Aging Process, Acording To New Study
A variant of a gene that regulates a protein in the brain can cause early aging of the brain, says new study.
Generally, the performances of aircraft pilots decrease slightly with age. However, a new study shows that pilots who have a particular variant of the BDNF gene are susceptible to a more rapid deterioration of performances. Moreover, the researchers observed a accelerated decline in the brain centers which are responsible for memory and learning.
The study was conducted by Dr. Ahmad Salehi and his colleagues at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto and its results were published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
Almost 38% of study participants had one or two copies of the BDNF gene. In two years it was noticed that in this pilots, performances decreased almost three times faster than in the rest of the pilots. Reduced performances are reflected in reduction of reaction rate, competence in navigation, positioning and in emergency situations.
However, when researchers have calculated the size of the hippocampus, it was found that, after the age of 65 years, men who had suffered a mutation of BDNF gene have a decreased in volume of this area from the brain. Hippocampus size does not correlate with test results in the flight simulator, which is explained by the fact that piloting an aircraft involves other brain regions.
Experts say that these problems are not manifested only in the case of pilots. All persons holding the BDNF gene modified version and works with complex machinery may face the same problems.
The cause of the modified version of the BDNF gene is represented by a change in a single unit of DNA chain. This slight change leads to the substitution of a amino acid called methionine to valine, in a portion of a protein that is encoded by this gene. Such minor changes can have large consequences for a protein that was subject to a few changes since its emergence, 400 million years ago. Normally, brain cells release BDNF protein only when is needed, but this amino acid substitution causes the protein to be released constantly. In people with the modified version of BDNF gene, this protein is not secreted in sufficient amounts at the level where the nerve cells receive messages.
Although the factors leading to the production of this phenomenon are not yet known, the study emphasizes the importance of BDNF gene and the need for detailed research to help counteract the negative effects of this gene variant associated with a accelerated cognitive decline.