Ben Gurion University.
(photo credit: WWW.PIKIWIKI.ORG.IL)
Progress in identifying the factors that cause dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly has been made by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.
The common consensus is that aging is the result of the accumulation of DNA damage – the body’s failure to implement processes to completely repair its DNA over the years. Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease affects about half of those over the age of 90, suggesting that the causes are mostly related to age.
Writing in Cell Reports, lead author Dr. Deborah Toiber of the life sciences department in BGU’s Faculty of Natural Sciences studied one of the most important components in the DNA repair process that is called SIRT6.
The team determined in mouse models that high levels of SIRT6 contribute to DNA repair, while low levels allow the accumulation of DNA damage.
The researchers tested their hypothesis on a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, and found that a decrease of the SIRT6 protein results in increased DNA damage and preceded other markers of encroaching disease such as hyperphosphorylated Tau.
SIRT6 was nearly completely absent in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
“If a decrease in SIRT6 – and lack of DNA repair – is the beginning of the chain that ends in neurodegenerative diseases in seniors, then we should be focusing our research on how to maintain production of SIRT6 and avoid the DNA damage that leads to these diseases,” she wrote.