Protein Found to Protect Against Alzheimer's

A rare mutation on a gene long associated with Alzheimer's seems to prevent the disease from forming. Scientists want to make a drug that mimics the specific mutation.

What's the Latest Development?

In a study of 1,795 Icelanders and 400,000 more Scandinavians, scientists have found a genetic mutation whose presence helps protect against contracting Alzheimer's disease. "The mutation—the first ever found to protect against the disease—lies in a gene that produces amyloid-β precursor protein (APP), which has an unknown role in the brain and has long been suspected to be at the heart of Alzheimer’s." The mutation seems to slow milder mental deterioration that occurs naturally with age. "Carriers [of the mutation] are about 7.5 times more likely than non-carriers to reach the age of 85 without suffering major cognitive decline, such as memory loss."

What's the Big Idea?

The mutated gene is rare but it has a huge impact on those fortunate enough to inherit even a single copy of it. "About 0.5% of Icelanders are carriers, as are 0.2–0.5% of Finns, Swedes and Norwegians. Compared with their countrymen who lack the mutation, Icelanders who carry it are more than five times more likely to reach 85 without being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They also live longer, with a 50% better chance of celebrating their 85th birthday." Were scientists able to develop a drug that mimics the effects of the mutation, it would have the ability to slow more common mental decline and to prevent Alzheimer's. 

Photo credit:

California wildfires death toll climbs to 50

Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
  • 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
  • On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
Keep reading Show less

Too much sleep results in cognitive decline, researchers find

We know the dangers of too little sleep. Now for the other side of the story.

Photo: Vladislav Muslakvo / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Western University researchers found that sleeping over eight hours per night results in cognitive decline.
  • Oversleepers suffer similar difficulties on certain cognitive tests as those who sleep under seven hours.
  • Not all the news is bad: One night of oversleeping results in a cognitive boost.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less