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Antioxidant boosts memory in elderly

A team of researchers has found a formula of nutrients high in antioxidants and other natural components that can help boost the speed at which the brains of older adults processed information, thus improve the cognitive health.

The team at University of South Florida (USF) developed nutritional supplement, containing extracts from blueberries and green tea combined with vitamin D3 and amino acids, including carnosine, which was tested by them in a clinical trial enrolling 105 healthy adults, ages 65 to 85.

Researchers Paula Bickford, PhD, and Brent Small, PhD, teamed up to investigate the effects of a USF-developed, antioxidant-rich nutritional supplement on the cognitive performance of older adults.

The two-month study evaluated the effects of the formula, called NT-020, on the cognitive performance of these older adults, who had no diagnosed memory disorders.
Those randomised to the group of 52 volunteers receiving NT-020 demonstrated improvements in cognitive processing speed, while the 53 volunteers randomized to receive a placebo did not.

Reduced cognitive processing speed, which can slow thinking and learning, has been associated with advancing age, the researchers said.

“After two months, test results showed modest improvements in two measures of cognitive processing speed for those taking NT-020 compared to those taking placebo,” said Brent Small, PhD, a professor in USF’s School of Aging Studies.

“Processing speed is most often affected early on in the course of cognitive aging. Successful performance in processing tasks often underlies more complex cognitive outcomes, such as memory and verbal ability.” Blueberries, a major ingredient in the NT-020 formula, are rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic, or natural phenol substructure.

Changing meal timings could affect liver

A new study of mice has suggested that merely changing meal times could have a significant effect on the levels of triglycerides in the liver.

The results of this Weizmann Institute of Science study not only have important implications for the potential treatment of metabolic diseases, they may also have broader implications for most research areas in the life sciences.

In studying the role of circadian rhythm in the accumulation of lipids in the liver, postdoctoral fellow Yaarit Adamovich and the team in the lab of Dr Gad Asher of the Weizmann Institute’s Biological Chemistry Department, together with scientists from Dr Xianlin Han’s lab in the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Orlando, US, quantified hundreds of different lipids present in the mouse liver. They discovered that a certain group of lipids, namely the triglycerides (TAG), exhibit circadian behavior, with levels peaking about eight hours after sunrise.

The scientists were astonished to find, however, that daily fluctuations in this group of lipids persist even in mice lacking a functional biological clock, albeit with levels cresting at a completely different time – 12 hours later than the natural schedule.
“These results came as a complete surprise: One would expect that if the inherent clock mechanism is ‘dead,’ TAG could not accumulate in a time-dependent fashion,” Adamovich said. So what was making the fluctuating lipid levels “tick” if not the clocks? “One thing that came to mind was that, since food is a major source of lipids – particularly TAG – the eating habits of these mice play a role.”

Protein breakthrough to cure dengue, West Nile fevers

A team of scientists has found an important aspect of how both the dengue virus and West Nile virus replicate in their host cells and how they manipulate the immune system as they spread, thus taking a step towards control of health investigation.
Dengue fever and West Nile fever are mosquito-borne diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide each year, but there is no vaccine against either of the related viruses.

Researchers led by Janet Smith of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute describe for the first time the structure of a protein that helps the viruses replicate and spread infection.

Smith said that seeing the design of this key protein provides a target for a potential vaccine or even a therapeutic drug.

The protein, NS1, is produced inside infected cells, where it plays a key role in replication of the virus. NS1 is also released into the bloodstream, where it may help disguise the infection from the patient's immune system and may play a role in the hemorrhage that is seen in severe dengue virus infection.

“Having the structure of NS1 is a huge advance in understanding, and using, the protein to our advantage,” said Kuhn, who led the Purdue University team involved in the work.

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