The Biology of Alzheimer’s and Couch Potato Rat DNA

I am concerned with an ongoing effort in the scientific community to prove, once-and-for all, that some of us are genetically predestined to be lazy.  It seems there are those among us who are natural-born couch potatoes.  If laziness become a medical condition, then I’m sure we’ll soon see a category of disability that will then offer the lazier among us a Federally paid way of life for sitting around all day watching television.

Here’s the latest research this week from the Show Me State:

In their study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology on April 3, 2013, Roberts and Booth put rats in cages with running wheels and measured how much each rat willingly ran on their wheels during a six-day period. They then bred the top 26 runners with each other and bred the 26 rats that ran the least with each other. They repeated this process through 10 generations and found that the line of running rats chose to run 10 times more than the line of “lazy” rats.

“While we found minor differences in the body composition and levels of mitochondria in muscle cells of the rats, the most important thing we identified were the genetic differences between the two lines of rats,” Roberts said. “Out of more than 17,000 different genes in one part of the brain, we identified 36 genes that may play a role in predisposition to physical activity motivation.”

Two years ago, we learned about Lazy Rats, and I’m not sure why we need even more research into rodent sloth.  You know there won’t be a vaccine for laziness because, people will argue, they were “born that way.”  Laziness will become an excuse for behavior.  “I’m lazy in my bones!” — will become the new motto shouted, ever so softly, from the sofa.

Now, genetic research that quantifies the differences between Races and the acquisition of Alzheimer’s is a much more robust, and perhaps, even radical, methodology for understanding our minds:

The researchers calculated that ABCA7 increased Alzheimer’s risk by about 80 percent in African-Americans, compared with about 10 percent to 20 percent in people of European ancestry. Those are considered modest increases; a gene that carries a significant risk would increase the chances of getting a disease by well over 200 percent. And ABCA7 was not very common, still leaving most Alzheimer’s risk unexplained. About 9 of every 100 African-Americans with Alzheimer’s had the gene, compared with 6 out of 100 who did not have the disease.

It matters what we choose to research and examine. Money is short and temptation is long. Should we be spending resources and time on defining what makes a rat lazy, or should we instead be divining the deepest pockets of our minds to discover not only what we think, and how we wonder, but also why our minds can get sick and what we might do to prevent the decay of perceptive, active, thought?