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Vol. LXII, No. 20
October 1, 2010
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Digest

Mild Cognitive Impairment More Common in Older Men Than Older Women

Older men may be at risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, earlier in life than older women, according to a study that appeared Sept. 7 in Neurology.

Primarily funded by the National Institute on Aging, the study raises the question of whether there may be a gender difference in the development and progression of MCI.

The researchers conducted in-person evaluations of 1,969 randomly selected people from all 70- to 89-year-olds living in Olmsted County, Minn.

Scientists evaluated the cognitive health of dementia-free older people and found 16 percent showed signs of MCI, a condition usually marked by memory problems or other cognitive problems greater than those expected for their age. Prevalence was greater among the older participants and it was consistently higher in men than women across all age ranges.

“Because evidence indicates that Alzheimer’s disease may cause changes in the brain one or two decades before the first symptoms appear, there is intense interest in investigating MCI and the earliest stages of cognitive decline,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “While more research is needed, these findings indicate that we may want to investigate differences in the way men and women develop MCI, similar to the way stroke and cardiovascular disease risk factors and outcomes vary between the sexes.”

NIH-Sponsored Research Yields Promising Malaria Drug Candidate

A promising new malaria drug candidate offers hope as a treatment for a disease that kills almost 1 million people a year, mostly youngsters.
A promising new malaria drug candidate offers hope as a treatment for a disease that kills almost 1 million people a year, mostly youngsters.

A chemical that rid mice of malaria-causing parasites after a single oral dose may eventually become a new malaria drug if further tests in animals and people uphold the promise of early findings. The compound, NITD609, was developed by an international team of researchers including Dr. Elizabeth A. Winzeler, a grantee of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Results were reported in the Sept. 3 issue of Science.

“Although significant progress has been made in controlling malaria, the disease still kills nearly 1 million people every year, mostly infants and young children,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “It has been more than a decade since the last new class of antimalarials— artemisinins—began to be widely used throughout the world. The rise of drug-resistant malaria parasites further underscores the need for novel malaria therapies.

“The compound developed and tested by Dr. Winzeler and her colleagues appears to target a parasite protein not attacked by any existing malaria drug, and has several other desirable features,” added Fauci. “This research is also a notable example of successful collaboration between government-supported scientists and private sector researchers.”

Work on what eventually became NITD609 began in Winzeler’s lab in 2007. Scientists screened 12,000 chemicals using an ultra-high throughput robotic screening technique customized to detect compounds active against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite. The screen identified a chemical with good parasite-killing abilities and the potential to be modified into a drug.

NIH Study Shows How Insulin Stimulates Fat Cells To Take in Glucose

Using high-resolution microscopy, researchers at NIH have shown how insulin prompts fat cells to take in glucose in a rat model. The findings were reported in the Sept. 8 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

By studying the surface of healthy, live fat cells in rats, researchers were able to understand the process by which cells take in glucose. Next, they plan to observe the fat cells of people with varying degrees of insulin sensitivity, including insulin resistance—considered a precursor to type 2 diabetes. These observations may help identify the interval when someone becomes at risk for developing diabetes.

“What we’re doing here is actually trying to understand how glucose transporter proteins called GLUT4 work in normal, insulin-sensitive cells,” said Dr. Karin Stenkula, a researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and a lead author of the paper. “With an understanding of how these transporters in fat cells respond to insulin, we could detect the differences between an insulin-sensitive cell and an insulin-resistant cell, to learn how the response becomes impaired. We hope to identify when a person becomes pre-diabetic, before they go on to develop diabetes.”

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