Space & Innovation

Loss of Y Chromosome Linked to Alzheimer's

About one in five men over age 80 lose the Y chromosome, and the condition has now been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

About one in five men over age 80 lose the Y chromosome from their blood cells, and this condition has now been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, researchers said.

The condition known a loss of Y, or LOY, is the most common genetic mutation acquired during a man's lifetime.

Previous research has shown LOY can raise the likelihood of cancer and is more frequently found in smokers.

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Now, researchers say the condition may serve as a predictive biomarker for a wider range of health problems.

For the study in the American Journal of Human Genetics - led by Lars Forsberg and Jan Dumanski of Uppsala University in Sweden, along with colleagues Britain, France, the United States and Canada - researchers examined cases of LOY in more than 3,200 men with an average age of 73.

Around 17 percent showed LOY in blood cells.

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Those who had been already diagnosed with Alzheimer's had a higher degree of LOY, they found.

Also, those who had not yet been diagnosed with dementia but had LOY were more likely to develop Alzheimer's in subsequent years.

"Having loss of Y is not 100 percent predictive that you will have either cancer or Alzheimer's," cautioned Forsberg.

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Some men with LOY in the study lived with no symptoms well into their 90s.

"But in the future, loss of Y in blood cells can become a new biomarker for disease risk and perhaps evaluation can make a difference in detecting and treating problems early."

According to Chris Lau, professor in the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the study sheds little light on why Alzheimer's risk may be elevated in these men.

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"Although informative, the study is preliminary in nature and only highlights the fact that the Y chromosome could serve important functions beyond male sex determination and sperm production," said Lau, who was not involved in the study.

"What exactly on the Y chromosome that increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease is the key issue."

Since the Y chromosome contains many genes - some unique to men and others shared with women, who do not have a Y chromosome - more research is needed.

"It depends on what is lost to determine what is important for Alzheimer's disease. Without such information, the loss of Y is just an observation," Lau said.

The Royal Photographic Society and its supporting sponsor Siemens have just released the five prize winners in the 2015 International Images for Science competition. We'll display the winners here and then we'll show you a few of the other dazzling entries from the contest. Shown here is David Maitland's "Breathing Tree." It took the overall "Gold" category and shows the tracheal system of the caterpillar of a silk moth (

Bombyx mori

). It was created using differential interference contrast (DIC) lighting in a microscope and recorded with a digital SLR camera.

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Marta Garcia's "Red and White" was tops in the "Gold 17 & Under" category. She took this macro photograph of a strawberry (

Fragaria x ananassa

) with growing mold and mildew.

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The "Gold 18-25" prized was taken by Rebecca Summerfield for this micro computed tomography (micro-CT) X-ray scan of an unborn tope shark (

Galeorhinus galeus

). The view is from above down and the shark's eyes are shown in green, while digital coloring shows other anatomical details from the original monochrome scan.

The Silver prize was awarded to Stephen Gschmeissner for "Silver Plaster Nanotechnology: 2014," a scanning electron micrograph (SEM) view of a silver-treated adhesive dressing (or sticking plaster). Silver is incorporated into the dressing fibers (red), seen here behind a non-stick polypropylene mesh (grey). Silver has antibacterial properties that may help with wound healing, especially in smaller injuries. The original monochrome SEM image has been digitally colored.

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The Bronze prize went to another David Maitland creation, this one "Anchors," a microscopic view of the skin of a sea cucumber. It was created using differential interference contrast (DIC) illumination and was captured on a digital SLR camera. Now let's look at a few of the contest's other entries.

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Daniel Kariko's super-scary imaging of a carpet beetle could give a person nightmares.

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Yan Liang captured this reaction between zinc metal and copper sulfate solution-generated copper metal.

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David Maitland created another stirring shot with his "Three Wise Men." Its shows the “eyes” of Xylem vessels within the “faces” of vascular bundles in the stem of the cocoa nut palm,

Cocus comosa


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Stefan Diller imaged these gen-engineered T-Cells.

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A soap bubble is capture in mid-collapse in this entry from Richard Beech.

Nikon Small World 2014 Winners Dazzle: Photos