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Study explores how life experiences contribute to the biological changes of Alzheimer's
Date:9/30/2009

o cognitive function in old age."

One of those factors may be epigenetic marks. There are currently about 30 known proteins that turn genes on and off. Since it is known that life experiences can affect which proteins are produced, Bennett and his colleagues want to know if the brain is using epigenetic marks as a means of linking experiential factors to long term memory storage.

"A memory trace involves protein production. It is hard to change genes, but it may be easier to manipulate the opening and closing of genes to impact memory," said Bennett.

Researchers will conduct epigenome-wide DNA methylation scans and epigenome-wide histone acetylation scans on brain tissue from participants in two large, longitudinal studies of aging and dementia: the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Religious Orders Study. These studies include the participation of more than 2,400 older adults from across the country who have agreed to medical and psychological evaluation each year and brain donation after death. Brain tissue is already available from more than 750 participants, and the epigenomic studies will eventually examine brain tissue from more than 1000 participants.

The results of these scans will be used to explore the relation of epigenetic alterations to age-related cognitive decline and point to potential DNA methylation sites and histone modifications linking life experiences to cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding these relationships offer the possibility of therapeutic intervention because a number of drugs are known to affect epigenetic modifications.

In addition, Rush researchers have already been funded by the NIH to conduct a whole genome scan on participants from both studies. Thus, they will be able to examine the interaction between genetic variation and epigenetic marks on cognition and life experiences. Rush is collaborating with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard Universty to conduct the genome
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Contact: Kim Waterman
Kimberly_Waterman@rush.edu
312-942-7820
Rush University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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