Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

NME’s weekly science dose (August 23-29)

The diversity of microbial species living in your gut may serve as markers to identify your likelihood of becoming obese. Researchers, including Jun Wang from King Abdulazziz University, Saudi Arabia, found significant differences in the composition of gut microbes in 169 obese and 123 non-obese Danish individuals.

The research team reports that those with a low diversity of microbial species appear to have more metabolic abnormalities, making them more prone to increased body fat and insulin resistance. Find out more here.

Another research item we highlight this week shows the link between mutations in a specific gene and a group of childhood neurodegenerative disorders. The gene, which codes for the enzyme AMPD2, was found to be mutated in five patients suffering from pontocerebellar hypoplasia (PCH), a disorder characterized by a shrunken brainstem and lower parts of the brain, resulting in cerebral palsy and mental impairment. More details here.

Beyond the hood

It seems that a deficiency in a protein called RbAp48 in the hippocampus is a significant contributor to age-related memory loss. The study, conducted by a team of Columbia University Medical Center researchers, offers the strongest causal evidence yet that age-related memory loss is distinct from and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study entailed performing gene expression analyses of postmortem brain cells from the dentate gyrus (a subregion of the hippocampus) of eight people aged between 33 and 88. While they were free of brain disease, the analyses found a steady decline with ageing across the subjects in the expression of the gene that produces RbAp48.

The research team then genetically inhibited RbAp48 in the brain of healthy, young mice. The result was the same degree of memory loss as among aged mice. When RbAp48 inhibition was turned off, the mice’s memory returned to normal, suggesting that age-related memory loss may be reversible. You can read more about this study here.


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