If the sense of smell disappears, this can indicate a disease such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. However, unlike previously assumed, general degenerations in the nervous system do not play a leading role in the loss of the sense of smell with increasing age, but individual nerve cells or classes of nerves are decisive.
Some nerve cells (neurons) or neuron classes in the brain seem to age faster than others. For example, the loss of the sense of smell is one of the first clinical signs of natural aging. This can be accompanied by a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.
"Age is the major risk factor as to why people suffer from Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease," says Prof. Ilona Grunwald Kadow from the School of Life Sciences at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) - "only a small proportion of these diseases are due to known genetic reasons".
The question is why do some neurons age faster than others? Why are some more sensitive? And is the damage to certain types of neurons the reason why whole nerve networks no longer function properly?
A new study conducted under the direction of Prof. Grunwald Kadow (TUM) in collaboration with the groups of Prof. Julien Gagneur (TUM), Prof. Stephan Sigrist (Free University of Berlin) and Prof. Nicolas Gompel (LMU) using the genetic model organism of the fruit fly now shows how the olfactory capacity of these animals ages and how much this resembles the aging process in the human olfactory system. Like humans, the fruit fly loses its powers of smell as it ages. Several key genes and mechanisms were identified that contribute to this aging - associated degeneration.
Which neurons are affected?
In the next step, the scientists examined whether all or only specific neurons of the olfactory circuit are affected. The team found that some neurons are more sensitive than others and decline faster during aging.
They determined that oxidative stress alters primarily specific neuron types, causing the functioning of the entire neural network to gradually collapse. Oxidative stress results in too many reactive oxygen compounds in the cell or tissue, which can cause temporary or permanent damage and accelerated aging.
Interestingly, if the formation of these reactive oxygen compounds in only this type of neurons is prevented, this completely stopped the loss of sense of smell: Old flies sense odors just like their young conspecifics again. This suggests that age-related degeneration could be significantly delayed by preventing oxidative damage in only one or a few neuron types.
But what can reduce oxidative stress in its effect?
A trial with an antioxidant in the form of several weeks of resveratrol administration in younger flies showed that it can counteract oxidative stress, which develops during aging. This treatment appeared to protect the particularly sensitive neurons and thereby contributed to maintaining the function of the neurons connected to them within the neural network. In the elderly, such treatments might help to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases associated with ageing.
Another possible factor that could play a role in the aging process is the intestinal microbiome. It could be involved in the progression of Parkinson's disease. Grunwald Kadow and her team have therefore also tested the effect of specific microbiota on olfactory ageing in fruit flies with the result that certain bacteria have a positive effect and slow down olfactory neurodegeneration.
According to Prof. Grunwald Kadow, these findings and further ongoing experiments in the fruit fly model can help to pave the way for more targeted and new treatments and therapy routes, in which, among other things, drug or microbiota administration would be combined with each other.
Ashiq Hussain, Atefeh Pooryasin, Mo Zhang, Laura F. Loschek, Marco La Fortezza, Anja B. Friedrich, Catherine-Marie Blais, Habibe K. Üçpunar, Vicente A. Yépez, Martin Lehmann, Nicolas Gompel, Julien Gagneur, Stephan J. Sigrist and Ilona C. Grunwald Kadow: Inhibition of oxidative stress in cholinergic projection neurons fully rescues aging-associated olfactory circuit degeneration in Drosophila, eLife 1/2018. doi: 10.7554/eLife.32018 elifesciences.org/articles/32018
Prof. Dr. Ilona Grunwald Kadow
Technical University of Munich
Professorship of Neuronal Control of Metabolism
Phone: +49/8161/71 2440
https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1432809?id=1432809 Pictures for editorial coverage
Dr. Ulrich Marsch | Technische Universität München
TU Dresden chemists develop noble metal aerogels for electrochemical hydrogen production and other applications
06.04.2020 | Technische Universität Dresden
First SARS-CoV-2 genomes in Austria openly available
03.04.2020 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
Electrolytes play a key role in many areas: They are crucial for the storage of energy in our body as well as in batteries. In order to release energy, ions - charged atoms - must move in a liquid such as water. Until now the precise mechanism by which they move through the atoms and molecules of the electrolyte has, however, remained largely unknown. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now shown that the electrical resistance of an electrolyte, which is determined by the motion of ions, can be traced back to microscopic vibrations of these dissolved ions.
In chemistry, common table salt is also known as sodium chloride. If this salt is dissolved in water, sodium and chloride atoms dissolve as positively or...
Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.
Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...
90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous
An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...
The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.
One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...
An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.
A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...
06.04.2020 | Event News
02.04.2020 | Event News
26.03.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Life Sciences
06.04.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.04.2020 | Social Sciences