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

Reversing Aging in Brain Cells

As we age brain stiffness increases which leads to stem cell dysfunction. New research has demonstrated new ways to reverse this aging process in older stem cells into a younger and healthier state. The results may provide immense implications for understanding the aging process and how new much needed treatments can be developed for brain diseases that are related to aging.

Muscles and joints become stiff as our bodies age which makes movements much more difficult. The study indicates the same is true of the brain. Brain stiffening leads to significant impact on how brain stem cells function.

The multi disciplinary study team which was based at the Wellcome MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, observed both old and young rats to help understand how brain stiffening due to age impacts the function of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). These type of cells are one of the types of brain stem cells which are important to maintaining normal function of the brain. They are also involved in the regeneration of myelin, the fatty sheath which surrounds our nerves and is damaged in multiple sclerosis.

MS affects over 100,000 in the UK, but the affects of age on these cells also declines as healthy people age.

To see whether the function loss in aged OPCs was reversible, the team transplanted older OPCs from the aged rates into the spongy, soft brains of the younger rats. Surprisingly, the older brain cells were rejuvenated and they started to behave similar to the younger, more rigorous cells.

The team them sought to understand how brain stiffness and softness influences the behavior of cells. They investigated Pierzo1 which is a protein found on the surface of the cell and informs the cells whether the environment surrounding it is stiff or soft.

The team was fascinated to see that when they grew young, functioning rat brain stem cells on the stiff material, the cells then became dysfunctional and then lost the ability to regenerate. They actually began to look like older cells. When the older brain cells were grown on the material that was soft they started to function similar to young cells.

When the team removed Piezo1 from the surface of the older brain stem cells, they were able to trick those cells into perceiving a soft surrounding environment even when they were grown on the stiffer material. They were able to delete Piezo1 in the OPCs in the older rat brains which then led the cells to become more rejuvenated and again they were able to assume their normal function of regeneration.

MS is a painful, disabling and relentless disease. Treatments that can prevent or slow the accumulation of disability over time are needed. The study teams research on how brain stem cells age and how the process could be reserved has important implications for treatments in the future.

To view the original scientific study click below

Niche stiffness underlies the ageing of central nervous system progenitor cells.

New Technique to Help Bones Heal Faster

A research team at the University of Illinois, Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania have developed a new and unique technique which uses flexible implantable bone stabilizing plates and stem cells to speed healing of bone defects or large breaks.

This new technique uses stem cells applied at break sites to experience mechanical stress which they do in developing embryos. The forces this creates might help stimulate stem cells to develop into cartilage and bone in addition to encouraging other cell types contained in the bone to regenerate.

Stem cells require environmental cues in order to be able to differentiate into cells which make up unique tissues. Stem cells which give rise to cartilage and bone are subject to mechanical type forces during healing and development.

As bones heal, stem cells contained within the bone marrow near the break site initially become cartilage cells then bone cells which eventually knits together the break. When large gaps between deformed or broken bones occur, adding more stem cells to the break sites can encourage bones to heal faster by either stimulating formation of bone by neighboring cells or by actively participating in the process of regeneration.

However, to use stem cells to regenerate bone, these cells must be delivered to the defect site and then differentiate appropriately for stimulation for repair. The team has developed a unique preparation of these cells which can be manipulated and handled easily for implantation. This supports the cellular differentiation process which occur in embryonic development of bone.

For the preparation, stem cells were cultured to link to each other to form either plugs or sheets. This preparation additionally contained gelatin micro particles which were loaded with growth factors which will help stem cells differentiate. The plugs or sheets can be manipulated and then implanted and thus reduce the tendency for cells to drift away. These materials are called condensates.

In earlier studies, the team used condensates in rodent models to help heal bone defects in their skull. They observed that the condensates remained in place and were able to improve the extent and rate of regeneration of bone.

Recently, they took their idea step further. They developed a unique and flexible fixator. Typically fixators are stiff metal bars or plates which are used to stabilize bones at the break site. These types of fixators reduce the amount of mechanical stress breaks will experience during the healing process.

The flexible fixator would allow the cells in the condensates to experience compressive forces which are critical to stimulating cartilage enhancement and formation of bone.

The team used a rat model for determining how mechanical forces present in bone defects affect the ability of condensates to contribute to formation of bone. When the team used the condensate sheets along with a flexible fixator in the rate models with a femur defect, they observed there was not only enhanced healing but also the bones showed better mechanical function when compared to control rats which had received the condensates and the stiff, more traditional fixators.

The team says the techniques and devices they develop from their research could additionally influence the way physical therapy is implemented after an injury. The findings support regenerative rehabilitation which is an emerging paradigm concept which marries physical therapy principles with regenerative medicine. The goal is to understand how mechanical stimuli will influence the behavior of cells to better impact the outcomes of patients without additional devices or drugs.

To view the original scientific study click below

Recapitulating bone development through engineered mesenchymal condensations and mechanical cues for tissue regeneration.

New Cell May Replace Liver Transplants

A study conducted at the King’s College London, Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine, have used sequencing of single cell RNA to help identify a cell type that might have the ability to regenerate tissue in the liver. This discovery could possibly lead to treating liver failure without transplants.

The research team identified a new cell type called hepatobiliary hybrid progenitor (HhyP) which is formed during early development in the womb. HhyP also persist in adults in small quantities and these cell types have the ability to grow into two main types of cells of the adult liver (Hepatocytes and Cholangiocytes) which gives HhyPs properties similar to stem cells.

The researchers examined HhyPs finding that they resemble stem cells in mice which were found to quickly repair livers in mice after major injury such as what might occur in cirrhosis.

This is the first time cells have been found with true stem cell like properties which may exist in the liver in humans. This could in turn provide a large range of applications for regenerative medicine for treating diseases of the liver. This could possibly include bypassing liver transplants.

Diseases of the liver are the fifth largest killers in the UK and the third most common cause of death due to premature causes. And the number of human cases continues to rise. Liver diseases can be due to lifestyle issues such as viruses, alcohol misuse, and obesity, or non lifestyle issues which include genetic mediated disease and autoimmune diseases.

Liver disease symptoms include itching, jaundice, and feelings of tiredness and weakness. Severe cases include cirrhosis. The only treatment at this time for severe diseases of the liver is a liver transplant. This can lead to a lifetime of complications. Also, the need for donor livers greatly outweighs increasing demands for this type of transplant.

The need now is for researchers to work quickly to discover the method for converting pluripotent stem cells into the HhyP cells so that transplants of these cells into patients can occur. The team also will be working to see if there is an ability to reprogram HhyPs inside the body through traditional pharmacological medications to repair diseased livers without either the cell or organ transplants.

To view the original scientific study click below

Single cell analysis of human foetal liver captures the transcriptional profile of hepatobiliary hybrid progenitors