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Elderly people with poor sleep habits at greater risk of Alzheimer’s

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Fifty and sixty-year-olds who do not sleep well show higher levels of tau protein, according to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley. The tau protein turns out to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

In the past, other studies had found links between insufficient sleep and the accumulation of beta-amyloid, also the latter risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases. This is yet another study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, which emphasizes the importance of sleep substantially at all ages. As noted by Matthew Walker, professor of psychology at the University of California and lead author of the study, insufficient sleep, especially when it characterizes a person’s life in the long term, is predictive of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

This means that there is not a period of life during which you should decide to sleep less than the number of recommended sleep hours, from infancy to old age. The researcher analyzed, with the help of his student Joseph Winer, data on 95 elderly subjects, data that also saw the brain scan with PET. The two discovered that those subjects who reported poor quality of sleep when they were forty and fifty years later had higher levels of beta-amyloid protein later in life.

They also found that subjects who reported insufficient sleep when they were fifty or sixty years old had higher levels of tau proteins over the years. Both types of accumulation are associated with higher risks of developing dementia.

Furthermore, during the study the researchers also made a second interesting discovery: people with higher levels of tau protein in the brain also showed greater chances of brain wave failure. According to Walker and associates, the synchronization of this cerebral “oscillation” benefits the memory.

In general, according to the scientist, insufficient sleep and sleep interruption are increasingly considered to be important factors regarding the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and the decline of memory associated with this pathology.

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Global ocean currents are accelerating more and more

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Ocean currents, which move huge quantities of seawater daily from one area of ​​the globe to another, have accelerated, and quite quickly, over the past 25 years. This is what a new study appeared in Science Advances. The researchers analyzed data taken from 1990 to 2013 and, by making models, concluded that the energy of sea currents has increased, for every 10 years, by about 15%.

The study was also difficult because, in order to have a global vision such as that relating to the results of this research, there was a need for numerous data collected through direct measurements relating to currents all over the world, data not always available. Furthermore, all this data must be modeled to calculate long periods, which can be measured in decades.

Hu Shijian, oceanographer of the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, used five different types of analysis of the circulation of oceanic flows to understand their kinetic energy levels month by month on a large scale. Among the data used also those of the Argo array, a network of 4000 small robotic floats distributed stupid almost in the world’s oceans.

The result indicates a certainly noteworthy increase in global ocean circulation and the phenomenon will certainly be deepened in the future. The suspicion that accelerating the movement of marine flows is the ongoing global warming is naturally very strong but it must be said that the acceleration could also be caused by natural fluctuations that cannot be considered with these datasets.

Predictable consequences? The currents in the tropics could become stronger and transport more hot water to higher latitudes and this could significantly change the weather patterns of these areas.

But the researchers themselves admit that this is the first global study on this phenomenon and that, precisely because of this, there is a lot of uncertainty about it.

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Post-menopausal women with a pear-shaped body at less risk of cardiovascular disease according to a new study

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A study published in the European Heart Journal analyzes the physical form of the body of post-menopausal women correlating it to the risks of pathologies affecting the heart and blood vessels.
The study shows, according to the researchers, that post-menopausal women with an apple-shaped body are more connected to risks of heart problems than women with a pear-shaped body.

Specifically, this particular study has discovered that a greater quantity of body fat in the legs, which leads to a shape of the body with larger hips and a narrower pelvis (a “pear” shape), is connected to a risk of Cardiovascular disease to a significantly lesser extent, by 40% according to researchers. At the same time, a greater quantity of fat in the center of the body trunk, which determines the shape of the same “apple,” seems to be linked to an almost double risk of heart problems and stroke.

This is the first study that correlates the shape of the body determined by the position of fat to the risks of cardiovascular disease in menopausal women, and this is independent of the body mass index. The researchers analyzed 2683 women whose data were present in a US database. The data dated back to the period between 1993 and 2017. All the women analyzed at the time they entered the study did not show signs or pathologies related to the heart. However, over the years the researchers have found 291 cases of cardiovascular diseases on the basis of which they could therefore create the links.

According to Qibin Qi, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the lead author of the study, this research shows that postmenopausal women should pay more attention to localized body fat regardless of body mass index and from an average body weight.

The same researcher recalls that the study found associations only in post-menopausal women and connections cannot be made even for younger women. Furthermore, the women who participated in this study still had a “relatively higher fat mass in both the trunk and leg regions, regardless of whether the association model could be generalized.”

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Andean hummingbirds follow different but parallel and predictable evolutionary paths

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A discovery concerning hummingbirds living in the Andean mountain areas was carried out by a group of researchers from the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results show that these birds have adapted with genetic mutations, distinct but concerning the same biochemical pathways, to high altitude.

It is one of those discoveries that show that evolution cannot be completely random but there are traits of predictability with regard to biochemical pathways. High altitude involves many challenges to overcome for birds and those living in the Andes are certainly not far behind. At higher altitudes, in fact, temperatures start to be lower, ultraviolet radiations from the sun are more powerful and there is always less oxygen (over 4000 meters there is already 40% less).

All animals, not just birds, that live at these heights have developed specific evolutionary changes and this also affects humans: there are groups of humans living in villages in the Andes that show specific genes so that they can adapt to a quantity of limited oxygen. The question of the “flexibility” of these changes and their predictability has always been discussed.

The new study, published in Genome Biology and Evolution, shows a case of “parallel evolution” of hummingbirds in the Andes: the changes seem to have evolved independently in separate families. The researchers studied 12 species of hummingbirds from the Andes and sequenced almost 1000 genes for each of them.

They identified a greater similarity in general biochemical pathways and biological functions for adaptation to high altitudes, such as cellular respiration, metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis. According to Marisa Lim, a researcher at Stony Brook University when she carried out this study, the latter suggests that there is “predictability in the evolutionary mechanism, mainly through biochemical pathways.”

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