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Genes linking aging to specific diets identified

Researchers have identified a collection of genes that allow an organism to adapt to different diets and have shown that without these genes even minor dietary changes could cause premature aging and even death.

Finding a genetic basis for an organism’s dietary needs suggests that different individuals may be genetically predisposed to thrive on different diets – and that now, in the age of commercial gene sequencing, people might be able to identify which diet would work best for them through a simple blood test.

“These studies have revealed that single gene mutations can alter the ability of an organism to utilize a specific diet. In humans, small differences in a person’s genetic makeup that change how well these genes function, could explain why certain diets work for some but not others,” Sean Curran, corresponding author, said.

Curran along with Shanshan Pang studied Caenorhabditis elegans, a one-milimeter-long worm that scientists have used as a model organism since the ‘70s. Decades of tests have shown that genes in C. elegans are likely to be mirrored in humans while its short lifespan allows scientists to do aging studies on it.

New drug target for high blood pressure discovered

University of Southern Denmark researchers have found how a mutated protein can lead to holes in a protein sitting in a cell’s membrane.

Such holes cause high blood pressure, and the discovery can now lead to new and better medication for high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by many things - one of them being a specific mutated protein.

“This knowledge can now lead to new and better medicines for high blood pressure”, lead author of a new scientific publication at the University of Southern Denmark, said.
He explains that some years ago research colleagues from University of Aarhus found out that a particular mutated protein is associated with high blood pressure.

Wojciech Kopec and his colleagues have now revealed the mechanism at play: The mutated protein leads to the formation of holes in a protein sitting in a cell’s membrane, and so the cell can no longer control what is allowed into and out of the cell interior. The holes are made where the cell controls its content of salts. A normal, healthy cell has full control of how much salt (sodium ions) must be removed from within the cell so that it can maintain a perfect salt balance in the organism, it is a part of.

“But when there are holes, sodium ions can penetrate into the cell, so the salt levels go up. Too high salt levels are associated with many diseases, including high blood pressure,”
Kopec said.

Brain connections could be shaping religious beliefs

Researchers have found that causal, directional connections between these brain networks can be linked to differences in religious thought.

Dimitrios Kapogiannis and team from the National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD) and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, IL, analyzed data collected from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to evaluate the flow of brain activity when religious and non-religious individuals discussed their religious beliefs.

The authors determined causal pathways linking brain networks related to “supernatural agents,” fear regulation, imagery, and affect, all of which may be involved in cognitive processing of religious beliefs.

Dr. Kapogiannis said that when the brain contemplates a religious belief, it is activating three distinct networks that are trying to answer three distinct questions: 1) is there a supernatural agent involved (such as God) and, if so, what are his or her intentions; 2) is the supernatural agent to be feared; and 3) how does this belief relate to prior life experiences and to doctrines?

Study co-author Jordan Grafman said that their study demonstrates that important brain networks devoted to various kinds of reasoning about others, emotional processing, knowledge representation, and memory are called into action when thinking about religious beliefs.

He said that the use of these basic networks for religious practice indicates how basic networks evolved to mediate much more complex beliefs like those contained in religious practice.

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