Researchers identify changes in lipids of neural regions affected by aging

  • A new study with the participation of IDIBELL showed that some brain regions especially involved in memory are the most affected by aging.
  • Researchers have analyzed the lipid profile of 13 regions of the central nervous system of healthy individuals between the ages of 40 and 80 in order to identify changes in lipid patterns.
NO037 - I Ferrer IRB Lleida

Fatty acids are key components in the structural diversity of lipids, which determine the integrity of neuronal and glial cell membranes. This study, led by IRB Lleida and with the participation of Isidre Ferrer and Pol Andrés-Benito, researchers at the IDIBELL neuropathology group and also at CIBERNED, analyzes the fatty acid profiles of 13 regions of the central nervous system of healthy individuals between 40 and 80 years of age.

The results show a sustained and relatively well preserved general lipid profile throughout adult life in most of the regions studied, in line with normal aging of the human brain. The lipid profile is resistant to age changes in most brain regions to ensure cell survival and function. However, some regions of the brain especially involved in memory are the most affected by the aging process.

The conclusions of the study suggest the existence of general features in the composition of fatty acids, such as, for example, an average chain length of 18 carbon atoms or a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids.

These characteristics of fatty acids are shared by all brain regions regardless of age. However, some brain areas, such as the inferior temporal cortex and the cingulate cortex, show some minor changes subject to age. The major fatty acids of the adult human brain undergo slight but progressive and significant changes during the aging process, with some changes showing a breaking point after the age of 50 years. This would indicate that fatty acids and their metabolism are closely related to the aging of the human brain.

The results of the work indicate that these changes only occur in some lipid types and in a particular location: the cell membranes’ lipid rafts. The composition of lipid rafts changes with age depending on gender and these changes that affect the cell membrane are a factor of early age-affected neuronal damage.

This work opens new research paths on the definition of which lipid molecules change with age in the different regions of the human brain. It would be interesting by extending the lipid analysis to unstudied brain regions, analyze lipid patterns according to the neural cell type, and unmask its relationship to function and dysfunction leading to neuropathology.

Text adapted from CIBERNED: link



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).

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