Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cell density remains constant as brain shrinks with age

15.06.2015

New, ultra-high-field magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago provide the most detailed images to date to show that while the brain shrinks with age, brain cell density remains constant.

The study, of cognitively normal young and old adults, was published in the journal NMR in Biomedicine.


Brain cell density remains constant with age among cognitively normal adults.

Courtesy of Dr. Keith Thulborn

The images provide the first evidence that in normal aging, cell density is preserved throughout the brain, not just in specific regions, as previous studies on human brain tissue have shown. The findings also suggest that the maintenance of brain cell density may protect against cognitive impairment as the brain gradually shrinks in normal aging.

The images were made at UIC by a powerful 9.4-Tesla MRI, the first of its kind for human imaging. The 9.4 T magnetic field is more than three times stronger than that of a typical MRI machine in a doctor's office and is currently approved only for research. The strongest MRI units approved for clinical use are 3 T.

'The information provided by these 9.4-Tesla scans may be very useful in helping us to detect tiny losses of brain cells and the reduction in cell density that characterizes the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases that can take decades to develop before symptoms appear, like Alzheimer's disease,' said Dr. Keith Thulborn, director of MRI research in the UIC College of Medicine and lead author of the report.

'If we can identify when Alzheimer's pathology starts, the efficacy of new drugs or other interventions to slow or prevent Alzheimer's disease can be tested and monitored when the disease starts, instead of after it's developed for 20 or 30 years and becomes clinically apparent,' said Thulborn, who is professor of radiology, physiology and biophysics.

Neuroscientists have long known that the brain shrinks with age, but for a long time they thought the loss in volume was associated with a loss of brain cells. That was disproven by studies that showed it is the neurons themselves that shrink while the number of cells remains the same in normal older adults.

Thulborn and his colleagues scanned the brains of 49 cognitively normal adults ranging in age from 21 to 80. All had at least a college education and were employed or, if retired, were active in their communities. All were without major medical, neurological or psychiatric disease and scored within the normal range for mental status.

The 9.4 Tesla MRI measures sodium ions, which are less concentrated by several orders of magnitude than the fat and water molecules detected with standard MRI. Sodium ions are present throughout the body and are pumped in and out of neurons to generate the electric potentials needed to spark nerve impulses. Sodium concentrations in the brain reflect neuron density. Areas of low sodium concentration indicate lots of neurons packed tightly together, while higher sodium concentration can indicate more space between cells -- or the loss of cells, as in the case of neurodegenerative diseases.

Thulborn thinks the ultra-high-field scanners eventually will be approved for clinical use.

'We can use the 9.4 T to look at brain cell loss in real time in patients experiencing stroke, or to see whether chemotherapy for brain tumors is working in higher resolution that is just not available using the current 3 T clinical scanners,' he said.

###

Elaine Lui of the Melbourne Brain Centre and Jonathan Guntin, Saad Jamil, Ziqi Sun, Theodore Claiborne and Ian Atkinson of the UIC Center for Magnetic Resonance Research are co-authors on the paper.

This research was funded by National Institutes of Health grant RO1 CA129553.

Media Contact

Sharon Parmet
sparmet@uic.edu
312-413-2695

 @uicnews

http://www.uic.edu 

Sharon Parmet | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow
25.07.2017 | Rudolf-Virchow-Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin der Universität Würzburg

nachricht Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
25.07.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>