May 31, 2012 10:24 AM by AP
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - An assistant professor at LSU Health Shreveport has more than $1 million for a four-year study of how aging affects the brain chemical dopamine and the enzyme that regulates it.
Working with rats, Michael Salvatore's team also will test whether exercise and calorie restriction could reduce or eliminate the currently untreatable cluster of symptoms called aging-related Parkinsonism. Symptoms range from infirmity to inability to move, and are associated with injuries and deaths from falls.
The symptoms are like those of Parkinson's disease, but Salvatore thinks a different part of the brain may be responsible. He will inject a growth factor receptor that regulates dopamine production in that part of the brain to see if the rats' mobility improves.
The grant is from the National Institutes of Health.
Aging-related Parkinsonism is a big problem for people aged 65 and over. A 15 percent risk of the disease at age 65 doubles each decade, so that about half of all 85-year-olds are affected.
Salvatore is investigating whether animals have a limited amount of the receptor, and it is somehow used up as we age.
If that's the case, says Salvatore, it might be possible to replace it.
The second part of the research will test whether exercise and a 30% reduction in calories may have the same effect by boosting dopamine production.
The results could help baby boomers continue daily activities into old age and greatly reduce disability and injury, and could help middle-aged people devise lifetime habits to prevent decreased mobility as they age, Salvatore said.