At one time in Minnesota we had an unusual number of middle-aged Hmong adults dying in their sleep. I wonder if it could have been related to an odd depletion of preBotC cells:
Rats possess 600 of the specialised cells. The researchers believe humans have a few thousand, which are slowly lost over a lifetime.In most populations this is not necessarily a significant health problem. Most of us would not resent dying in our sleep in the late stages of disabling and untreatable disease. As a sign of how the brain ages it is scientifically very interesting.
Lead researcher Professor Jack Feldman said: 'We speculate that our brains can compensate for up to a 60% loss of preBötC cells, but the cumulative deficit of these brain cells eventually disrupts our breathing during sleep.
'There's no biological reason for the body to maintain these cells beyond the average lifespan, and so they do not replenish as we age.
'As we lose them, we grow more prone to central sleep apnoea.'
The UCLA team believes that central sleep apnoea may pose a particular risk to elderly people, whose heart and lungs are already weaker due to age.
They also suspect the condition strikes people suffering the late stages of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.