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Dutch News
Brains of oldest woman ''35 years younger'' 1/24/2007
24 January 2007

AMSTERDAM – The 115-year old Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, at one point the oldest woman in the world, had the brains of a 60 to-80 year old, according to the doctors at the University Medical Centre in Groningen (UMCG) in a scientific publication that came out on Monday.

The article has caused some commotion. It seems that the privacy of the woman has been violated.

Hendrikje van Andel died two years ago. From the autopsy that was performed immediately after her death, she died from stomach cancer. The woman had donated her body to science.

On the website of the scientific journal ''Neurobiology of Aging'', the neurologists and pathologists at the UMCG reported that the brain of the old woman was remarkably young.

An examination of the arteries throughout her whole body showed that there were no indications of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

As far as the brain is concerned, they also hardly found any plaque: the protein deposits that cause dementia-like symptoms. The woman had the beginnings of mild Alzheimer''s disease.

The pathologists counted just as many neurons (nerve cells) in the brain of the old woman as in a healthy 60-to-80-year old.

These findings concur with the neurological tests that Van Andel underwent when she was 112 and 113-years old.

In cognitive function tests (memory and alertness), her scores were comparable to that of a 60 to-75-year old. This is genetically determined, suspects the Groningen pathologist, Wilfred den Dunnen.

The UMCG is furious about the publicity, especially about the statements by chief researcher Gert Holstege. By going public with specific medical data and the name, he seems to have violated the privacy of the woman.

A spokesperson for the UCMG would not say what the consequences would be for the neurologist. The family has no objection to the statements in the media.

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