Gecko Cells may Help with Spinal Cord Treatments in Humans

A researcher at the University of Guelph has discovered the gecko’s spinal cord tail houses a special cell type known as the radial glia. When the tail detaches, these cell types jump into action by making and proliferating different types of proteins in response to the injury. It is believed this discovery may have implications for spinal cord treatments in humans.

Many types of lizards are able to detach a portion of their tail in order to avoid predators. They can then regenerate a new one. Unlike mammals, lizard tails include a spinal cord. The researcher found the spinal cord of the tail contains a large number of proteins and stem cells which are known to support stem cell growth.

It has been known that the gecko’s spinal cord can regenerate. But it hasn’t been known until now which cells were playing a key role in this regeneration. People are extremely bad at dealing with injuries to the spinal cord. It is the hope that what has been learned from the geckos can coax human spinal cord injuries into repairing themselves.

Geckos can regrow a new tail within 30 days which is faster than any other lizard type. In the wild, they will detach their tail when a predator grabs them. The severed tail will continue to wiggle which distracts the predator long enough for the lizard to escape.

For the lab research, the researcher simulated this by pinching the gecko’s tail which caused it to drop. Once the tail has detached, the site of the tail loss will begin to repair itself. This will eventually lead to a new spinal cord and new tissue formation. For the study, the science professors investigated what would happen at the cellular level before and then after detachment.

The team discovered that the spinal cord of the gecko houses a special stem cell type and these stem cells are normally fairly quiet. However when the tail becomes detached, everything will change temporarily. The cells will begin making different proteins and will proliferate more in response to the tail injury.

Ultimately, a brand new spinal cord is made. Once the injury has healed and the spinal cord has been restored, the cells will return to a resting state.

People however, respond to spinal cord injuries by making scar tissue as opposed to new tissue. The scar tissue will seal the wound very quickly, however sealing the injury prevents any regeneration. This is a quick fix, however in the long term it is problematic.

This might be why humans have a limited ability to repair their spinal cord. Humans are missing the key types of cells required for regeneration.

The study is one of several parts of a series of investigations into the regenerative abilities of the central nervous system of geckos. The next part is to examine how the gecko makes new brain cells. Geckos can regenerate many tissue throughout the bodies which makes them ideal models for studying tissue
redevelopment and wound healing.

To view the original scientific study click below

Neural stem/progenitor cells are activated during tail regeneration in the leopard gecko

Brain Health Linked to Oral Health

Two new studies have explored the relationship between cognitive decline and oral health and also perceived social support and stress among older Chinese Americans. Two Rutgers studies found evidence that there is a key relationship between poor oral health and cognitive aspects such as executive function and memory.

The research team interviewed over 2,700 Chinese Americans who were 60 and older. Both studies came from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago. They discovered that almost 50% of the participants reported experiencing tooth symptoms and 25.5% reported dry mouth.

In the first study, the participants were quizzed on their oral health and were also given five cognitive tests to complete. In this study those who reported tooth symptoms also experienced declines in episodic memory and cognition which are often times precursors to dementia.

For the second study the participants were asked if they had experienced dry mouth issues. They were then asked to measure their perceived social support, stress and social strain levels using predefined scales. The researchers found in the second study that stress increased symptoms of dry mouth which leads to poorer overall oral health.

The team did not find any significant relationship between cognitive problems and gums. However, they believe participants might have been less likely to report gum issues since they may find them less problematic.

Ethnic and racial minorities are especially vulnerable to the negative results of poor oral health. This group of people typically have less access to preventative dental care which can be exacerbated by lower socioeconomic status and language barriers. Chinese Americans who are older are at particular risk for having oral health symptoms due to not visiting a dental office regularly and lack of dental insurance.

The team believes with the increasing burdens of oral health disease among the older Chinese Americans, there is a need for investigations into psychosocial factors due to the current emphasis on health behaviors and physical diseases in oral health.

Efforts to increase social support to alleviate the stress that leads to dry mouth issues can help preserve older adults health, well being and limit cognitive decline. The studies demonstrate the importance of examining oral health outcomes later in life.

By working collaboratively, healthcare providers and dental providers can better identify oral health symptoms as potential risk factors of decline in cognition among the fast growing and vulnerable older population. The primary focus should include improving the quality of life and promoting optimal oral health.

To view the original scientific studies click below

Oral Health Symptoms and Cognitive Function Among US Community-Dwelling Chinese Older Adults

New Cell Discovery for Healing Hearts

New research at the University of Calgary has discovered what was once an unidentified cell population in the pericardial fluid which is found inside the sac that surrounds the heart. This discovery could possibly lead to new treatments for people with injured hearts. The study was funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

The team discovered that a specific cell known as a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage, helped heal an injured heart in a mouse. This cell was found in the pericardial fluid of a mouse that had a heart injury. The same cells were also found in the human pericardium of people who also had injured hearts. This confirmed that the cells that repair offer promise of a new therapy for people with heart disease.

Heart doctors had not previously explored the possibility that cells which are outside the heart might participate in the repair and healing of hearts following injury. Compared to other organs, the heart has a very limited capacity for repair which is why heart disease is the number one cause of death in North America.

The discovery of this new cell which can help heal an injured heart muscle will open the possibility of new hope and therapies for millions of people who suffer from diseases of the heart. It has always been known that the heart sits inside a strange fluid filled sac. It is now known that this pericardial fluid is quite rich with healing cells. These particular cells might hold the secret to regeneration and repair of new heart muscle.

By working together and bringing expertise across many disciplines, the initial researchers with a cardiac surgeon and clinician researcher, identified this cell in less than three years. This is a relatively fast time frame to move from lab research and animals to people.

The next goal is to recruit a basic scientist to move the current research to a broader study of repair of the human heart. The new program will further extend the collaboration between clinical and basic research to identify new therapeutics aimed at improving heart repair.

To view the original scientific study click below

Gata6+ Pericardial Cavity Macrophages Relocate to the Injured Heart and Prevent Cardiac Fibrosis.

Enhance Cognitive Youth with Online Brain Games

A new study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, has found that online brain game exercises can help people in their 70’s and 80’s multitask cognitively even as well as people 50 years younger! This valuable tool, gives older adults the ability to handle today’s daily onslaught of information which can be very taxing for seniors.

Like our bodies, we can work out and train our brains to improve mental performance. The research has discovered that older people who completed some very specific tasks gained the ability to beef up their brain’s ability to switch between tasks in a game which was at a level similar to 20 and 30 year people who were untrained.

The findings emphasize the cognitive cost of multitasking. Multitasking dilutes function through splitting focus. The findings indicate ways in which people throughout their lifespan can beat brain drain which can be brought on by the natural aging process and the increasingly crowded multimedia environment.

For the study the team partnered with Lumosity which is an online platform offering a variety of daily brain training games. They focused on data obtained from Lumonsity’s “Ebb and Flow” game which is a task switching games which challenges the ability of the brain to shift between cognitive processes interpreting movement and shapes.

Of the millions of individuals who played Ebb and Flow between 2012 and 2017, the team randomly sampled performance of approximately 1,000 users within two categories – those who ranged in age from 21 to 80 and had finished fewer than 60 sessions of training; and adults aged 71 to 80 who had logged a minimum of 1,000 sessions.

The research team found that the majority of the older and highly practiced players matched or exceeded the performance of the younger users who didn’t play the game very much. Any lead seniors however, significantly declined after the 21 to 30 year old participants completed at least 10 practice sessions.

Improved lifestyles and advances in the medical field have allowed people to live longer. Brain health is an important factor in that equation. With consistent upkeep, cognitive youth can be retained into the golden years.

To view the original scientific study click below

A large-scale analysis of task switching practice effects across the lifespan.

Double Early Mortality Risk Linked to Sedentary Lifestyle

According to a recent study, 20 years of a sedentary lifestyle is linked to two times the risk of premature death when compared to being physically active. The HUNT study’s findings suggest that in order to get maximum health benefits from physical activity to protect against premature cardiovascular and all cause death, a person needs to be continually physically active.

The focus of the study was to see how changes in physical activity over a 22 year period were related to subsequent death. Most previous studies investigating the relationship between longevity and physical activity asked the participants just once what their level of physical activity was then followed them for several years. However, physical activity is a behavior that can change with many people. Therefore, it is important to see how such changes over time may relate to the risk of death in the future.

The HUNT study asked all residents of Norway who were age 20 and older to participate in their study for three time periods – 1984 to 1986, 1995 to 1997, and 2006 to 2008. At each time point the participants were asked about their duration and frequency of leisure time physical activity. The study used the data obtained from the first and third surveys.

23,146 men and women were included in the analysis. Physical activity was categorized as inactive, moderate level which was less than two hours per week, and high which was two or more hours per week. The participants were then divided into groups depending on their levels of activity at each survey date.

The data from the physical activity was linked to information in regards to deaths until the end of 2013 through the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry. The death risk in each physical activity group was compared to the reference group which was participants who reported a high level of physical activity at each survey.

When compared to the reference group, the participants who were inactive 1984 to 1986 and 2006 to 2008 showed a 2 fold higher likelihood of all cause death and a 2.7 fold higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The participants with moderate physical activity at both time periods had 60% and 90% higher risks of all cause and cardiovascular deaths, respectively, when compared to the reference group.

In regards to the participants who changed categories between the surveys who went from inactive status to active status, they had a mortality risk that fell between those who were continually active or continually inactive. However, those who went from a highly active status to inactive had a similar risk of death as those who were inactive at both survey times.

The team notes that there are clear recommendations in regards to the amount of exercise adults should be engaging in to optimize their health. This is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of a more vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.

Another important point is that levels of physical activity even lower than the advised levels will give some health benefits. Physical fitness is shown to be more important than the amount of exercise. This includes all types of exercise that will make a person breathe heavily.

People should engage in activities they like and are encouraged to get more movement into their everyday life. The data indicates that a person can compensate for a previously sedentary lifestyle and the sooner they get active, the sooner positive results will occur. The team’s advice is to establish good exercise habits as early in life as possible. The benefits from an active lifestyle go beyond protection from premature death. They also effect the body’s cognitive function and organs. Being physically active helps people live longer and better lives.

First Cornea Transplant made with Reprogrammed Stem Cells

A research team at the Osaka University has conducted the world’s first corneal tissue transplant using reprogrammed stem cells derived from skin tissue. The patient was a Japanese woman in her 40’s who suffered from an epithelial stem cell deficiency in her cornea. This condition can make vision blurry and can lead to blindness.

The patient received the transplant on her left eye on July 25th and was released from the hospital on August 23rd. Her eyesight had improved considerably and no problems have been detected so far. Since this was the first operation of it’s type, the team will continue to monitor the patient quite closely.

For the procedure, the team created sheets of corneal cells from induced pluripotent stem cells. These cell types are created by reprogramming adult skin cells obtained from a donor into an embryonic state where they can transform into other types of cells such as corneal cells. The cells which are transplanted are expected to continue making more corneal cells and therefore help in sight recovery.

The thin sheet like corneal tissues used by the team do not contain immune cells which leads the team to believe they are unlikely to be rejected. Conventional corneal transplant operations are subject to rejection due to the fact that immune cells get implanted with the rest of the cornea.

The team believe that just one transplant should remain effective throughout a patient’s lifetime. They plan to conduct another transplant later this year.

These pluripotent stem cells can grow into any type of body tissue. The world’s first clinical study using these stem cells was conducted in 2014 transplanting retina cells into a women who had age related macular degeneration. In the future it will become possible to create any part of the body using this technique. In addition the patients own tissue could be used so that the cells in the new gland or organ will contain the patients own DNA.

Kohji Nishida, the team leader, may have created a new treatment for people suffering from corneal disease. Current procedures require waiting for corneal donations from donors who are deceased. About 1,600 patients in Japan are waiting for corneal donations.

The team hopes to make the treatment practical in five years. Corneal disease is a result of loss of cells in the part of the eye that produce the cornea due to injury or illness.

To view the original scientific study click below

Woman is first to receive cornea made from ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells.

Increase your Longevity Odds with an Upbeat View of Life

New research suggests that an upbeat view towards life might increase your odds for longevity. The findings come from a study looking at optimism and longevity among nearly 1,400 men and 70,000 women. The current study builds on previous research which linked higher levels of an optimistic view to reduced risks of premature death and chronic illness.

The study conducted by the U.S. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare Center, suggests that optimistic people are much more likely to achieve exceptional longevity. Exceptional longevity was defined as living to the age of 85 or older.

When compared to the least optimistic people, the most optimistic women and men were 50% to 70% more likely to live to the advanced milestone. The study also found that 11% to 15% were more likely to live longer overall.

The study’s results held up even when other influences such as marital status, chronic health issues, depression, educational background and friendships were taken into account. Regardless of a person’s habits, optimism was shown to also be a powerful predictor of longevity. This included alcohol and tobacco use, eating well, exercise and getting regular medical care.

Previous studies have mostly focused on problems or deficits which increase the risk of dying. The new study was novel in that the team considered the benefits of optimism, a psychological asset, in promoting longevity.

The team suggests that their findings may point towards new interventions that may encourage optimism and thus extend life. These include practices such as meditation and a variety of psychotherapy programs.

They also surmised that optimism is important after they analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a study which focused on women, and a Veteran Affairs Normative Aging Study which focused on men.

The women in the study were from 58 to 86 years old with an average age of 70 when they had their health habits and overall health and optimistic outlook first assessed. They were then followed for 10 years.

The men in the study were from 41 to 90 years old with an average age of 62 when they were given a similar assessment and a physical examination in 1986. They were then followed for 30 years.

At the conclusion of the 2 tracking periods, the research team discovered for both women and men the findings were both roughly the same. The individuals that were more optimistic had the greater chances for living longer and also a greater chance for reaching the exceptional age.

However, the results don’t necessarily mean that the more pessimistic a person is the more likely they are doomed for a shorter life. The team only found an association as opposed to a cause and effect link. The association between exceptional longevity and optimism was independent of depression. This suggests that optimism is more than simply the absence of depression. Even those who struggle with depression might work longevity wonders even with a little optimism

There are variety of reasons why optimism can breed longevity. Generally, optimistic people experience less stress since they don’t typically dwell on negatives. They also can feel more empowered to beat hurdles and are less likely to give up. And they will bounce back more quickly from setbacks and problems. Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies and is a killer.

Optimistic people are more likely to take good care of themselves, have an easier time keeping and making friends which is a well studied source of longevity and health. They are less likely to experience feelings of hopelessness and depression which are linked to higher rates of disease and poorer health.

The team acknowledged that access to good food, education and money and then also genetics can have a big impact on longevity. Unlike good genes however, gratitude and optimism and be learned!

To view the original scientific study click below

Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women.

Help for Lower Back Pain

A new study has shown that self administered acupressure can improve fatigue and pain symptoms in people who experience chronic lower back pain. This traditional Chinese medicine technique may be a better treatment than medication which can have serious side effects and can lead to addiction and abuse.

The study conducted at the Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, included 67 participants who all had chronic low back pain. There were placed in one of 3 different groups. The three groups included usual care, stimulating acupressure and relaxing acupressure.

Stimulating acupressure is directed towards fatigue reduction and relaxing acupressure is directed towards reducing insomnia.

The participants in the two acupressure groups had been trained to administer acupressure at certain points on their body. They spent between 27 to 30 minutes daily over six weeks performing their specific technique.

The participants who were placed in the usual care group were instructed to continue the treatments they were currently receiving to manage their fatigue and back pain from their health or medical provider.

When results were compared to the usual care group, the researchers found that those participants who performed stimulating acupressure experienced both fatigue and pain improvement. The participants who performed the relaxing acupressure indicated their pain had shown improvement after the six week period. They did not find any differences in the groups in regards to disability or sleep quality after the trial period.

Chronic pain can be difficult to manage, and people who experience this pain tend to experience other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, depression and fatigue. The study highlights the benefits from a non pharmacological treatment plan that patients can perform very easily on their own and result in positive pain management.

Larger studies are needed, however acupressure could be a useful strategy for pain management. It is low cost, low risk and easy to self administer. For now one can find several books with specific instructions for this type of technique by doing a search on on Amazon.com for accupressure books.

The team recommends additional studies into the different varieties of acupressure and how some of these techniques could specifically be targeted to people based on their symptoms.

To view the original scientific study click below

Self-Administered Acupressure for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial.

Reduce Anxiety with Matcha Tea

Adding Matcha Green Tea to your daily diet may improve your health and also help reduce anxiety. Experiments have shown that Matcha Tea’s anxiolytic effects happen because of the activation of dopamine D1 receptors and other serotonin receptors.

Japanese Matcha Tea has been growing in popularity around the world. This particular tea has a long history for its various medicinal purposes. The new study offers scientific evidence to support the benefits.

Recently a group of Japanese researchers from Kumamoto University have shown that anxiety in mice can be reduced after they have consumed Matcha extract or powder. The calming effects of the tea seem to be due to mechanisms which activate dopamine D1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT1A. These are both closely related to anxious behavior.

Matcha is a finely ground powder which is produced from the new leaves of shade grown Camellia sinensis green tea bushes. Not only the tea but also its food flavoring are enjoyed throughout the world. In Japan some of the historical medicinal uses for the tea include helping people relax, treatment of skin conditions and preventing obesity.

The research team set out to determine the tea’s various beneficial effects. They used the “elevated plus maze” test which is an elevated, plus shaped, narrow platform that has two walled arms which provide safety for the test subjects which are typically mice. This test is used as an anxiety test for the mice with the idea that animals which experience higher anxiety will spend more of their time in the safer walled off areas.

Researchers found that when using this test the anxiety of the mice was reduced after they consumed Matcha extract or powder. Additionally when the anxiolytic activity of a variety of Matcha extracts were elevated, an even stronger effect was discovered with an extract derived using 80% ethanol in comparison to an extract which was derived from just hot water. This means that a poorly water soluble Matcha component will have stronger anxiolytic effects than a component that is more water soluble.

A behavioral pharmacological analysis revealed that Matcha and Matcha extracts are able to reduce anxiety through activation of dopamine D1 and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors. Further epidemiological research is necessary, however the results of the current study show that Matcha may be very beneficial to the human body.

To view the original scientific study click below

Anxiolytic activities of Matcha tea powder, extracts, and fractions in mice: Contribution of dopamine D1 receptor- and serotonin 5-HT1A receptor-mediated mechanisms.

New Anti-Aging Discovery and Senescent Cells

New findings about how the aging process works may pave the way to better treatments and revolutionary new medications that could immensely improve human health.

Recent research from USC Viterbi School of Engineering has focused on senescence, the natural process by which cells permanently cease creating new cells. Senescence is one of the major causes of age related declines in health.

Senescent cells are the complete opposite of stem cells. Stem cells have unlimited potential for division or self renewal. Senescent cells can never divide again. They are in a state of cell cycle arrest.

The team discovered that these aging senescent cells ceased producing a class of chemicals known as nucleotides which are DNA building blocks. When the team took these young cells and forced them to cease producing nucleotides, they then became aged or senescent.

This observation means the production of nucleotides is mandatory in keeping cells young. And it additionally means that if cells could be prevented from losing nucleotide synthesis, the cells could age more slowly.

The study team examined cells that were young which were proliferating robustly. They fed them molecules that were labeled with stable isotopes of carbon so that they could trace how the nutrients consumed by the cells were processed into a variety of biochemical pathways.

The team worked with a team to develop 3D imagery of the results. Unexpectedly, the images revealed the senescent cells often contain two nuclei and they do not synthesize DNA.

Previously, senescence had primarily been studied in cells which are known as fibroblasts which are the most common cells which comprise the connective tissue in animals. The team instead focused on how senescence occurs in epithelial cells which are cells that line the surfaces of organs and structures in the body.

The team’s goal was not to completely prevent senescence, however they wanted to find a way to remove senescent cells to promote better function and healthy aging.

The research has applications in the emerging field of senolytics which is the development of medications that might be able to eliminate aging cells. Human clinical trials are in early stages, however studies on mice have indicated that through eliminating senescent cells, mice do age better and have a more productive life span.

They can take mice that are aging and diminishing in function, treat them with senolytic drugs to eliminate the senescent cells and the mice are rejuvenated. The team refers to these drugs as the fountains of youth.

In order for successful senolytic drugs to be developed, it is important to identify exactly what is unique about senescent cells so that developed drugs don’t affect the normal non senescent cells. This is where the research team is at…studying the metabolism of senescent cells and then trying to figure out how senescent cells are unique so that targeted therapeutics around these metabolic pathways can be designed.

To view the original scientific study click below

Inhibition of nucleotide synthesis promotes replicative senescence of human mammary epithelial cells