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New UCSF Studies Reveal that Age-Related Nerve Decline is Associated with Inflammation and Differs by Gender
Date:4/14/2010

lved a unique population of healthy elderly individuals between the ages of 65-90 called the Myelin and Aging Cohort. As part of this work, subjects underwent extensive neurological, laboratory and physical testing, and had to be free of any major chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, cognitive impairment, neuropathy and cardiovascular disease. For this project, researchers focused on the results from peripheral nerve conduction studies and laboratory findings.

“We know that the function of peripheral nerves declines with age but wondered whether other biologic processes were at play and if we could eventually predict this decline,” said John W. Engstrom, MD, co-lead investigator and clinical chief of the UCSF Neurology Service. “These findings provide an opportunity to identify risk factors for the decline in peripheral nerve function.”

In the first study, the team assessed conduction velocity, or the speed at which information traveled along peripheral nerves using nerve conduction studies. They found an association between age and slower nerve conduction in elderly men only.

“Everyone ages differently; there are different levels of normal,” said co-investigator Chris Songster, a specialist in the UCSF Department of Neurology. “We want to understand if there are modifiable risk factors that, if addressed, could help people age well.”

In the second study, the research team measured blood levels for highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and hemoglobin A1c, which are standard tests for diabetes and systemic inflammation. Using the same conduction studies but evaluating the amplitude of the response to an electrical stimulus rather than its speed, the researchers found decline even in subjects with mild elevations in hs-CRP and hemoglobin A1c. The subjects’ levels were within the normal, non-diabetic range for those measures.

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New UCSF Studies Reveal that Age-Related Nerve Decline is Associated with Inflammation and Differs by Gender
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