Science and Medicine

Sticky Questions About Role of Alzheimer’s Gene

“About 60 percent of the patients we see in the Alzheimer’s clinics have at least one copy of APOE 4,”

Scientists’ picture of how a gene strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease harms the brain may need to be revised.

People with harmful forms of the APOE gene have up to 12 times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who have other variations of the gene.

Many researchers believe that the memory loss and cognitive problems of Alzheimer’s result from the buildup over many years of brain amyloid plaques. The plaques are made mostly of a sticky substance called amyloid beta.

For years, researchers have thought that the APOE gene increases Alzheimer’s risk by producing a protein that binds to amyloid beta. Scientists thought that this bond could make it easier for plaques to form.

But a new study shows that APOE and amyloid beta don’t bind together in cerebrospinal fluid and in fluids present outside cells grown in dishes.

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Diabetes Care Improves, but Costly Gaps Remain

About 18.8 million adults have diagnosed diabetes

People with diabetes are getting better control of the disease, but a new study suggests that other health issues that can complicate the condition are not as well tended to.

According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans with diabetes had increasingly better control of their blood sugar and cholesterol levels and attended more preventive check-ups from 1999 to 2010.

However, one in five Americans with diabetes still smokes and approximately 40 percent don’t receive education at diagnosis, annual vaccinations, or annual checks for diabetes complications.

Led by Mohammed K. Ali, assistant professor in the departments of Global Health and Epidemiology at Emory University and Consultant for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC team analyzed national health data of people with diabetes, collected continually from 1999 to 2010, to understand how well Americans are controlling their blood sugars, blood pressure, cholesterol, and tobacco use. These factors are the four main risk factors for major diabetes complications.

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West Antarctic Ice Loss Still Within Normal Range

Previous work has shown that rapid thinning of Antarctic glaciers, which contributes significantly to sea level rise, was accompanied by accelerated warming and changes in atmospheric circulation near the coast..

Glaciers at the edge of the icy continent of Antarctica have been thinning dramatically, but the changes can’t be attributed with confidence to human-caused global warming, according to new ice core research.

Previous work has shown that rapid thinning of Antarctic glaciers, which contributes significantly to sea level rise, was accompanied by accelerated warming and changes in atmospheric circulation near the coast. The research showed that the majority of Antarctic warming came during the 1990s in response to El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

The new research suggests the ’90s were not greatly different from some other decades—such as the 1830s and 1940s—that also showed marked temperature spikes.

“If we could look back at this region of Antarctica in the 1940s and 1830s, we would find that the regional climate would look a lot like it does today, and I think we also would find the glaciers retreating much as they are today,” said Eric Steig, professor of Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington and lead author of a paper published online April 14 in Nature Geoscience.

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