Help Retain Muscle Mass in Over 50’s with Vitamin C

Recent research has shown that Vitamin C could help people over 50 retain muscle mass in later life. The study shows that people who are older and eat plenty of Vitamin C which is found in berries, vegetables, potatoes and citrus fruits, have the best skeletal muscle mass.

The findings are especially important because people tend to lose skeletal muscle mass as they age. This can lead to frailty, a reduced quality of life, and even sarcopenia which is a condition characterized by loss of skeletal function and muscle mass. Muscle mass loss is an important condition to prevent during aging to minimize both societal and personal costs.

People who do not consume enough Vitamin C in their diet are at risk of Vitamin C deficiency which can cause tiredness, weakness and fragile bones. In extreme cases, it can lead to scurvy. About two-thirds of our body’s total Vitamin C is found in the skeletal muscles. It is used for making carnitine which is a critical substance that provides energy for muscles to function properly and also collagen which is an essential structural component of muscle.

As we age, we lose strength and skeletal muscle mass. People over 50 lose up to 1% of their skeletal muscle mass every year. This loss is believed to affect more than 50 million people globally. It is a big problem due to the fact that it lead to a variety of poor outcomes that can lead to physically disability, type 2 diabetes, a reduced quality of life and even death.

Vitamin C consumption is linked with skeletal muscle mass. It helps defend the tissues and cells that make up our body from potentially harmful free radicals. If these free radicals are unopposed, they can contribute to the destruction of muscle which speeds up age related declines.

Until recently, few studies have researched the importance of Vitamin C intake for older adults. The team who conducted the recent study set to find out whether people who consumed more Vitamin C had more muscle mass than other people.

The team studied data from more than 13,000 people between the ages of 42 and 82 who are taking part in the EPIC (European Prospective Investigative into Cancer and Nutrition) Norfolk Study. They calculated the participant’s skeletal muscle mass and analyzed their Vitamin C intakes taken from their 7-day food diary. The team also examined the amount of Vitamin C in their blood which provides results less susceptible to possible error in reporting diet.

The statistical analysis also took into consideration other important factors such as a participant’s physical activity and energy and protein intake which can also have effects on skeletal muscle mass.

The team studied a large sample of older Norfolk residents and discovered that people with the highest amounts of Vitamin C in their blood or diet had the greatest estimated skeletal muscle mass which compared to those with the lowest amounts. They found that nearly 50% of women and nearly 60% of men were not consuming as much Vitamin C as they should. Women in the highest category of Vitamin C consumption had muscle mass 3% greater than those in the lowest category.

This study complements findings from earlier work in young and older women. In this study the team found that women who ate more Vitamin C foods not only had more muscle mass but also had much better leg function meaning they were stronger.

The findings suggest that dietary Vitamin C is important for muscle health in older women and men and may be useful in preventing age related loss of muscle. This is significant because Vitamin C is readily available in vegetables, fruits and supplements so improving the intake of this vitamin is very straightforward.

The findings promote the concept that optimal nutrition may help reduce muscle decline and further encourages and emphasizes that people of all ages follow healthy eating guidelines which includes eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day.

People do not need to take mega doses of Vitamin C to get benefits. Eating a citrus fruit such as an orange every day and consuming a vegetable side as part of a meal can be sufficient for most people. And for people with dietary concerns, supplements can provide a suitable alternative.

To view the original scientific study click below

Lower Dietary and Circulating Vitamin C in Middle- and Older-Aged Men and Women Are Associated with Lower Estimated Skeletal Muscle Mass.

Fructose Consumption and Fatty Liver Disease

A new study has found that the excessive consumption of fructose which is a sweetener common in the American diet, can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which is comparably abundant in the U. S. However contrary to previous thought, researchers are now reporting that fructose only adversely affects the liver after it has reached the intestines. Here the sugar disrupts the epithelial barrier which protects the internal organs from bacterial toxins in the gut.

NAFLD is the most common cause of chronic liver disease throughout the world and it can progress to more serious conditions. The new findings point to an approach that could prevent damage to the liver in the first place.

Consumption of fructose in the U. S. has been skyrocketing since the 1970s with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is a cheaper sugar substitute that is commonly and broadly used in packaged and processed foods such as cereals, baked goods and soft drinks.

Multiple studies in humans and animals have linked increased HFCS consumption to some of the nation’s numerous inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and also the nation’s obesity epidemic. Currently the U. S. FDA regulates it similar to other sweeteners such as honey or sucrose and advises only moderate intake.

The new study defines a specific role and risk for HFCS in the development of fatty liver disease. Interestingly, the ability of fructose which is plentiful in dates and dried figs to induce fatty liver was known to the ancient Egyptians who fed geese and ducks dried fruit to make their version of foie gras.

With the advent of metabolic analysis and modern biochemistry, it has become obvious that fructose is two to three times more potent than glucose in increasing liver fat which is a condition that triggers NAFLD. The increased consumption of soft drinks that contain HFCS is linked to the explosive increase in NAFLD incidences.

Fructose is broken down in the digestive tract by an enzyme known as fructokinase which is produced both by the gut and the liver. By using mouse models, researchers discovered that excessive fructose metabolism in intestinal cells reduces the production of proteins that maintain the gut barrier. This is a layer of tightly packed epithelial cells that are covered with mucus to prevent bacteria and microbial products such as endotoxins from leaking out of the intestines and into the blood.

Through deteriorating the barrier and increasing its permeability, excessive fructose consumption can lead to a chronic inflammatory condition called endotoxemia which has been shown in both experimental animals and pediatric NAFLD patients.

The researchers in the current study found that leaked endotoxins that reach the liver provoke increased production of inflammatory cytokines and stimulated the conversion of fructose and glucose into fatty acid deposits. It is very clear to the team that fructose does its harm in the intestine and if intestinal barrier deterioration is prevented, the fructose does little harm to the liver.

The team has noted that feeding mice with high amounts of fructose and fat will result in particularly severe adverse health effects. This is a condition that mimics the 95th percentile of relative fructose intake by American adolescents who get close to 21.5 percent of their daily calories from fructose. And this is often in combination with calorie dense foods such as french fries and hamburgers.

The team did find that when fructose intake was reduced below a certain threshold, no adverse effects were noted in mice. This suggests that only excessive and long-term consumption of fructose represents a health risk. Moderate fructose intake by normal consumption of fruits appears to be well tolerated.

Unfortunately, there are many processed foods that contain HFCS and most people are unable to estimate how much fructose they are actually consuming. Increased awareness and education are the best solutions to this problem, however for those people who have progressed to the severe form of NAFLD known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, these findings offer some ray of hope of a future therapy based on the restoration of gut barrier.

To view the original scientific study click below

Fructose stimulated de novo lipogenesis is promoted by inflammation.

Vitamin & Mineral Supplements Linked to Shorter and Less Severe Illness Symptoms

The results of a 12 week study conducted by Oregon State University has shown that older adults who took a daily mineral and multivitamin supplement containing Zinc and high amounts of Vitamin C experienced less severe symptoms and shorter periods of sickness when compared to those in a control group who received a placebo.

The research group included 42 healthy adults aged 55 to 75 and was set-up to measure the supplement’s effects on certain immune system indicators. The research team also looked at bloodstream levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc while the participants took the supplement. These particular micronutrients are important for proper immune function. The immune indicators which included white blood cells’ ability to kill incoming pathogensm were unaltered in the group receiving the supplement.

The group who received the multivitamin showed improved Zinc and Vitamin C status in their blood. Interestingly, illness symptoms that were reported by this group were less severe and were shorter lasting than those who were in the placebo group.

The same percentage of participants in both groups reported symptoms, but the number of days in the group who received the supplement averaged fewer than three compared to more than six for the participants in the placebo group.

The team notes that the observed illness differences were striking. And though the study was limited to self-reporting of illness data and the study was not designed to answer this question, the observed differences have suggested that additional larger studies that would be designed for these outcomes are warranted and as the team also notes, long overdue.

As people age, the risk of mineral and vitamin deficiencies that contribute to age related immune system deficiencies increases. Throughout the United States, Europe and Canada, research has suggested that more than one-third of older adults are deficient in at least one micronutrient and often times more than one.

These deficiencies contribute to a decline in a person’s immune system and are most often characterized by increased levels of inflammation in addition to reduced innate immune functions and reduced T-cell function. Because multiple nutrients support the function of the immune system, older adults often benefit from taking mineral and multivitamin supplements. These supplements are readily available, inexpensive and generally regarded as safe.

The multivitamin supplement that was used in this study focused on minerals and vitamins typically believed to help with immunity. It contained 700 micrograms of Vitamin A, 400 international units of Vitamin D, 45 milligrams of Vitamin E, 6.6 milligrams of Vitamin B6, 400 micrograms of folate,
9.6 micrograms of Vitamin B12, 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C, 5 milligrams of Iron, 0.9 milligrams of Copper, 10 milligrams of Zinc, and 110 micrograms of Selenium.

Supplementation was associated with significant increased circulating levels of both Vitamin C and Zinc and with illness symptoms that were shorter lasting and less severe. These findings support other findings that go back decades, even to the days of Linus Pauling’s research with Vitamin C. The current results from this study suggest more and better designed research studies are needed to further explore the positive role mineral and multivitamin supplementation might play in bolstering the immune system in older adults.

To view the original scientific study click below

The Effect of a Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement on Immune Function in Healthy Older Adults: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial.

How To Combat Immune Aging

As we age, the human immune system becomes less effective at fighting infections and less responsive to vaccinations. The aging immune system is also associated with chronic inflammation which increases the risk of almost all conditions and diseases linked to old age.

The good news is that by adopting the right diet and exercising, a person can go a long ways towards maintaining healthy immunity into older age. We now live in a time of high average life expectancies and our long evolutionary history has adapted us for a variety of lifestyles and these have drastically changed.

Immunity, as a result, weakens in older age and also becomes imbalanced. Two branches of the immune system are affected – the innate immunity and the adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is our first line of defense against infections and will fail to resolve after the initial threat has passed which in turn causes chronic systemic inflammation.

Adaptive immunity is responsible for remembering and attacking particular pathogens and will steadily lose its ability to defend the body against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The loss of adaptive immunity which comes with older age causes people to become more susceptible to infections and can also reactivate dormant pathogens that had been previously suppressed. The weaker adaptive immunity associated with older adults means their bodies will respond less strongly to vaccines.

Researchers have labeled the persistent low level inflammation that is related to almost all conditions linked to older age “inflammaging”. Some inflammation is part of the normal repair process for healing and is essential in keeping us safe from viral and bacterial infection along with noxious environmental agents. However, not all inflammation is good. When it becomes prolonged and persists, it can become destructive and damaging.

When a younger person is affected by an infection or injury, their immune system switches to an anti-inflammatory response. This does not happen as effectively in older people which is due to the accumulation of “senescent” or aged immune cells.

Senescent cells contain shorter telomeres which are the protective caps at the tips of chromosomes. They prevent vital genetic material from becoming lost when the chromosome is duplicated during the replication of cells.

Telomeres become shorter every time a cell divides and division eventually ceases completely. If the cell survives, it slowly becomes more dysfunctional. Senescent immune cells will produce more immune signaling molecules which are known as cytokines which promote inflammation. They turn out more interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).

High levels of IL-6 and TNF-alpha have been linked to mortality and disability in older people. They have a noticeably strong association with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and
neurodegenerative disease.

When the number of pro-inflammatory cells increase, there is also an increase in the number of immune cells known as M1 macrophages which are more pro-inflammatory and a decrease in the number of M2 macrophages which increase immunoregulatory.

These particular changes in the frequency of both M1 and M2 cells seems to be linked to an increased risk of developing plaques which are comprised of debris and fat which will block the arteries in atherosclerosis.

The immune system will learn to recognize and neutralize particular pathogens through adaptive immunity. An immune cell known as a T cell plays a critical role in adaptive immunity. When an infection occurs, naive T cells will learn to recognize the specific pathogen that is involved. They then will differentiate into cells which are specialized to mount additional responses against the identical pathogen.

The number of T cells remains constant throughout a person’s life. However, the pool of naive undifferentiated cells will steadily shrink over the years as more cells commit to taking on specific infections. As a result, the bodies of older people become less able to mount immune responses that are effective to new infections. And for the same reason, vaccines provoke weaker response from the immune system that is aging and therefore provide less protection. Research has suggested that repeated flu immunizations may lead to reduced antibody responses.

Many older people harbor a latent infection that is known as human cytomegalovirus which is very common and persistent but doesn’t typically produce symptoms. In some older people, this particular infection may slowly deplete their immune resources which makes them more susceptible to other viral infections and reduces the effect of flu vaccines.

Additionally with this slow decline in immunity with age, senescent T cells will produce more pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6. These will in turn stoke the chronic and systemic inflammation of inflammaging.

Although there isn’t anything that will prevent aging, there are a variety of lifestyle changes a person can make to help in staying healthy into old age.

Exercise has a significant effect on the immune system. Unfortunately, people become less active as they age. However, there is evidence that suggests getting as much exercise as is possible can slow or even reverse some of the effects caused by immunosenescence.

Skeletal muscle will produce a range of proteins that are known as myokines which reduce inflammation and can preserve immune function. It would make sense therefore, that maintaining muscle mass through exercise will help protect the body against infection and a variety of diseases.

One study discovered that aerobic fitness engaged in by 102 healthy males aged 18 to 61, was inversely proportional to the number of senescent T cells found in their blood after adjusting for age. This means that increased physical fitness was linked to less immunosenescence. The males who were most fit not only had fewer senescent T cells, but also a greater number of naive T cells.

Another study compared immune responses from 61 healthy males aged 65 to 85 to a flu vaccine. About 1/3 of the males were intensively active through sports or running, 1/3 were moderately active, and 1/3 were mostly inactive. After adjusting for age, the study found that the intensively and moderately active males produced more antibodies in response to the vaccine than the less active participants.

Amazingly, the males who were more active had higher serum concentrations of antibodies to some of the flu strains even prior to undergoing vaccination.

In regards to diet, there is plenty of indirect evidence to suggest that diet helps determine older adult’s risk of developing sarcopenia. This condition will cause a loss of muscle mass, functionality and strength. There seems to be a two way relationship between the immune system and skeletal muscle. Muscles will produce anti-inflammatory myokines. However, recent evidence has suggested that chronic inflammation also speeds up the muscle loss caused by sarcponenia.

Dietary supplements such as Vitamin D and polyunsaturated fatty acids may help reduce the risk of sarcopenia due to their anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, growing evidence suggests that people who consume a Mediterranean diet are less likely to become frail as they age. Frailty meaning losing muscle strength, tiring easily and walking slowly.

The Mediterranean diet consists of large amounts of leafy vegetables, fruits and olive oil; moderate amounts of poultry, dairy and fish; and low amounts of added sugar and red meat. Earlier studies have shown that this diet is linked to the lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

A 2018 review of observational studies, shows people who adhere the most closely to this type diet were less than half as likely to develop frailty over a 4 year period compared to those who followed it the least likely.

People who are frail have higher levels of inflammatory markers and inflammation is thought to be closely linked to frailty. The Mediterranean diet is associated with low levels of inflammatory markers and may help reduce the risk of frailty through this mechanism.

And while muscle plays a role in decreasing inflammation in older people, fat or adipose tissue may have the exact opposite effect. Normal aging will often lead to weight gain due to an accumulation of adipose tissue around the organs and beneath the skin. And adipose tissue may make a profound contribution to inflammaging.

Close to 30% of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 in the bloodstream may originate from adipose tissue. Having overweight and obesity in older age may therefore contribute to chronic inflammation. Animal and human studies have suggested that the immune system of people with obesity may produce fewer antibodies in response to the flu vaccine. Eating a healthful diet such as the Mediterranean diet and exercising appear to counter the effects of immune aging. This may be in part due to the way these two lifestyle habits prevent excessive weight gain. Studies suggest that older people who have a moderate weight gain and who exercise regularly have fewer senescent T cells and lower levels of inflammatory cytokines in their blood.

Whether or not exercise, diet and weight loss can reverse immunosenescence remains open for future research.

Drivers with Windows Down Exposed to 80% More Air Pollution

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that air pollution kills an estimated seven million people throughout the globe every year and nine out of ten people are exposed to high levels of pollutants. A new study has shown that people who drive and ride in cars from the world’s least affluent cities are exposed to a disproportionate amount of in-car air pollution due to the fact that they rely heavily on opening their windows for ventilation.

A global team of researchers led by Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research(GCARE) investigated levels for commuters in ten different global cities in the following countries – India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Columbia, Iraq, Tanzania, China, Malawi, and Ethiopia.

The team examined levels of two air pollution components – PM2.5 (fine particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller) and PM10 (fine particles that are 10 microns of less). PM2.5 is more harmful since the particles are smaller and have a higher probability of going deeper into the lungs and causing harm.

They investigated exposure levels inside vehicles during peak driving hours in the morning and evening in addition to off-peak hours in the middle of the day. They also measured how levels of exposure changed when drivers used re-circulation systems, fans or simply opened the windows of the car.

They discovered that drivers in some of the world’s poorest cities had higher levels of in-car pollution. Irrespective of the model of the car and the city, a windows-open setting indicated the highest exposure followed by fan-on and re-circulation. Exposure to pollution for windows-open during off-peak hours was 91% and 40% less than the morning and evening peak hours, respectively. The team also found that the windows-open setting exposed passengers to hotspots of air pollution for up to a third of the total length of travel.

The study showed that commuters who turn on the re-circulation are exposed to about 80% less harmful particles than those who open the windows of their car. Car cabin filters were more effective in removing pollution than fine particles which suggests that if new cars had more efficient filters it could lower the overall exposure of car commuters.

The team reports that we need as many cars as possible off roads or more green vehicles to reduce exposure to air pollution. However, this is a distant dream in many ODA (Official Development Assistance) countries. Cars that are air conditioned are unattainable for many vulnerable and poor commuters across the globe. The data is clear and coherent for all of the ten participating cities.

The team believes that they must now work with global partners to insure they have the information needed to put in place policies, programs and strategies to protect the most vulnerable in their communities and find realistic solutions to these serious problems.

The study has shown important conclusions that can help commuters make decisions throughout their day to day lives to protect their health. Even simple choices such as traveling during off-peak hours can go quite far in reducing their exposure to air pollution.

Through working with GCARE and global collaborators on the study, the team was given access to affordable technology to be able to collect novel data sets that had not been available for cities in the parts of the world they studied. They also got to see where the cities stood in comparison to other global cities in developing countries. This gave them the capability to share much needed knowledge and best practices.

To view the original scientific study click below

In-car particulate matter exposure across ten global cities.

Healthy Lifestyle for Cardiovascular Health also Promotes Good Eye Health

A new study has shown that ideal cardiovascular health which is typically indicative of a healthy lifestyle, was link with decreased odds of a person developing ocular diseases and especially diabetic retinopathy. The findings suggest that interventions to prevent cardiovascular diseases may also show promise in preventing diseases of the eye.

About 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from ocular diseases which can lead to vision impairment and blindness. About one half of these cases could have been prevented. The leading causes of blindness or vision impairment are age related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.

Previous studies have founds associations between eye diseases and individual lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, or hypertension. It is well known that these particular metrics of ideal cardiovascular health do not work alone and may interact additively to result in diseases. Prior to the recent research, no other research has comprehensively evaluated the association of all of the metrics of ideal cardiovascular health with ocular diseases.

Most diseases of the eye show few symptoms at early stages, and a lot of people may not seek medical care despite the fact that there are readily available treatments. A recent online nationwide survey that consisted of all ethnic and racial groups in the U. S., showed that 88% of the 2,044 participants considered good vision to be very important to overall health. 47% of these participants rated losing their vision as the worst disease that could ever affect them. Surprisingly, 25% did not have any knowledge in regards to ocular diseases and their risk factors.

The study shows that following healthy lifestyle and behavioral habits can all contribute to good cardiovascular health as assessed by following the American Heart Association’s prescription for health metric known as Life’s Simple Seven (LS7). LS7 is based on the status of seven cardiovascular disease factors which are not smoking, healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining normal weight, controlling blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and controlling blood glucose levels.

Practicing these LS7 healthy lifestyles together was found to be associated with decreased odds for age related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. People with optimal cardiovascular health had 97% lower odds for diabetic retinopathy when compared to people with inadequate cardiovascular health.

Researchers evaluated data from 6,118 adults aged 40 or older who took part in the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The average age was 57 and 53% of whom were female. A one unit increase in LS7 scores was associated with reduced odds of age related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Overall it is believed that the primary prevention and early detection of eye diseases are important when considering that over half of all deaths from ocular diseases and cardiovascular diseases are known to be preventable.

Considering the significant overlap of the risk factors of ocular and cardiovascular diseases, the research team recommends that screening for ocular diseases be incorporated into existing population based and clinical screenings for cardiovascular diseases. The hope is that the studies findings will encourage people to adhere to healthy lifestyle choices in order to prevent these age related disease while at the same time leading to increased collaborations between optometrists, ophthalmologists and cardiologists in order to better prevent cardiovascular and ocular diseases.

To view the original scientific study click below

The Association of Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Ocular Diseases Among US Adults.

Body Weight Has Surprising and Alarming Impact on Brain Function

According to a new brain imaging study, when a person’s weight goes up, all regions of the brain will go down in blood flow and activity. The study has revealed that being overweight or obese seriously impacts activity in the brain and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to a variety of other cognitive and psychiatric conditions.

The study which is one of the largest studies to link obesity with brain dysfunction, included analysis of over 35,000 functional neuroimaging scans using single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) from over 17,000 people to measure brain activity and brain flow. Low cerebral blood flow is the number one brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s Disease. It is also linked to ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addiction, traumatic brain injury, suicide and other psychiatric conditions.

Distinct patterns of progressively reduced blood flow was found in virtually every region of the brain across categories of normal weight, underweight, overweight, obesity and morbid obesity. The patterns were noted while the participants were in a resting state in addition to while they performed a concentration task.

Of particular interest, brain areas noted to be vulnerable to Alzheimer’s Disease (temporal and parietal lobes, posterior cingulate gyrus, precuneus and hippocampus) were found to have reduced blood flow along the spectrum of classifications of weight from normal weight to overweight, obese and morbidly obese. This is especially concerning news given that the latest statistics show that 72% of American are overweight and of whom 42% are obese.

The team has provided compelling evidence that obesity alters blood supply to the brain to shrink the brain and therefore promote Alzheimer’s disease. This is a very significant advance because it directly shows how the brain responds to our body.

The study highlights the real need to address obesity as a target for interventions that are designed to improve brain function. The team notes that one of the most important lessons learned is that brains can be improved when put in a healing environment through adopting brain healthy habits such as regular exercise and healthy calorie smart diets.

To view the original scientific study click below

Patterns of Regional Cerebral Blood Flow as a Function of Obesity in Adults.

Schooling and the Importance of Cognitive Health Throughout Life

Investing time in education during childhood and early adulthood not only expands career opportunities and can provide progressively higher salaries, but it also conveys benefits to longevity and health. It can also boost the cognitive skills people can develop earlier in life, pushing back the time at which age related dementia will begin to impact a person’s ability to care for themselves.

The new analysis has revealed that even though more extensive formal educations can forestall some of the more obvious signs of age related cognitive deficits, it does not lessen the rate of aging related cognitive declines. Instead, people who go further in school attain on the average a higher level of cognitive function in early and middle adulthood. This means the initial effects of cognitive aging are initially less obvious with the most severe impairments in cognitive health manifesting later than they might otherwise.

The total amount of formal education that people achieve is related to their average levels of cognitive functions throughout their adulthood. However, it is not appreciably related to their rates of aging related declines in their cognition.

This new conclusion refutes the previous long standing hypothesis that formal education during childhood through early adulthood will meaningfully protect against cognitive aging. Instead, the researchers concluded that people who have gone further with their education tend to decline from a higher peak level of cognitive function. They can therefore experience a longer period of cognitive impairment prior to dropping below what the team refers to as a “functional threshold”. This is the point where cognitive decline becomes so obvious that it will interfere with daily activities.

People vary in their rates of age related cognitive declines, however these differences are not appreciably related to educational levels.

For the study, the research team examined data from dozens of prior meta-analyses and cohort studies in an effort to better understand how educational levels affect both the changes in and levels of cognitive function in dementia and aging.

Although there are some uncertainties with their analysis, the team notes that a broader picture of how education relates to cognitive aging is emerging very clearly. During adulthood cognitive function in people with more years of education is on average higher than cognitive function in those with fewer years of education.

This analysis highlights the importance of formal education for cognitive development over the coarse of childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. According to the team, childhood education has important implications for the well being of people and societies not just during the employment years, but throughout life including old age.

This message from the team may be particularly relevant as governments decide if, when and how to reopen schools during the current COVID-19 pandemic. These decisions could have consequences for many decades in the future.

The research team has concluded that the conditions that shape development during the first decades of life carry great potential for the improvement of cognitive ability in early adulthood and for reducing public health burdens that are related to dementia and cognitive aging.

To view the original scientific study click below

Education and Cognitive Functioning Across the Life Span.

Implanted Neural Stem Cell Grafts and Functionality in Spinal Cord Injuries

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that they have successfully implanted specialized grafts of neural stem cells directly into spinal cord injuries in mice. They then documented how the grafts grew and filled the site of injury, mimicking the mice’s existing neuronal network.

Almost 18,000 people in the U.S. suffer spinal cord injuries (SCIs) every year and another 294,000 people live with an SCI which is usually involving diminished physical function (such as difficulty breathing or bladder control) or some degree of permanent paralysis. It has long been the ambition of scientists to restore lost functions due to SCIs using stem cells.

Previous to the new study, neural stem cell grafts being developed in labs were sort of a black box. Although earlier research had shown improved functioning in SCI animal models following neural stem cell grafts, scientists were not quite sure what was happening.

Scientists knew that damaged host axons grow extensively into injury sites and that graft neurons in turn extended large numbers of axons into the spinal cord. However, they had no idea what kind of activity was occurring inside the graft itself and didn’t know if host or graft axons were actually making functional connections or if they only looked like they could.

The research team took advantage of recent technological advances which will allow researchers to both stimulate and record activity of genetically and anatomically defined neuron populations using light rather than electricity. This ensured the team would know exactly which host and graft neurons were at play without having to worry about electric currents spreading through tissue and potentially showing misleading results.

The team discovered that even in the absence of a specific stimulus, graft neurons fired spontaneously in very distinct clusters of neurons with highly correlated activity which was much like in the neural networks of the normal spinal cord. When they stimulated regenerating axons coming from the mice’s brain, they discovered that some of the same spontaneously active clusters of graft neurons responded robustly which indicated that those networks receive functional synaptic connections from inputs that typically drive movement. Sensory stimuli such as a pinch or light touch also activated graft neurons.

This showed that the team could turn on spinal cord neurons below the site of injury through stimulating graft axons extending into those areas. Through putting all these results together, it turns out that neural stem cell grafts have a remarkable ability to self-assemble themselves into spinal cord-like neural networks that functionally integrate with the host nervous system. Following years of inference and speculation, the team showed directly that each of the building blocks of a neuronal relay across injuries to the spine are in fact functional.

The team is now working on several avenues in an effort to enhance the functional connectivity of stem cell grafts such as organizing the topology of grafts to mimic those of the normal spinal cord with scaffolds and using electrical stimulation to strengthen the synapses between graft neurons and host.

While it may still be years off for the perfect combination of stem cells, stimulation, rehabilitation and other interventions, people are living with spinal cord injuries now. Therefore, the team is currently working with regulatory authorities to move their stem cell graft approach into clinical trials as soon as possible. They anticipate that if everything goes well, they could have a therapy within the next 10 years.

To view the original scientific study click below

Neural Stem Cell Grafts Form Extensive Synaptic Networks that Integrate with Host Circuits after Spinal Cord Injury.

Re-engineering Antibodies for the Covid-19 Virus

Due to the millions of cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, people are looking to antibody tests to see whether they have been exposed to the coronavirus that leads to the disease. Questions have arisen in regards to what exactly are antibodies and why are they important? People wonder if they have them are they immune to COVID-19 and if not why? Can a person be injected with antibodies as a treatment or preventative?

Antibody tests are conducted to see if there is a presence of antibodies which are specific proteins that are made in response to infections and they are disease specific. For example, measles antibodies will protect a person from getting the measles if they are exposed to the disease again, however they won’t protect a person from getting the mumps if they are exposed to the mumps.

Antibodies are very important as they prevent infection and heal patients that have been infected by diseases. If a person has antibodies they are immune to a disease as long as they remain in the person’s system. If someone does not have antibodies, then infection will proceed and the pandemic continues.

This foreign antibody based protection is known as passive immunity which is short term immunity provided when a person is given antibodies to a particular disease rather than producing these antibodies through their own immune system.

Research was conducted at The Catholic University of America in Washington D. C. by Victor Padilla-Sanchez into the initial steps of antibody protection. He specializes in viruses and uses computer models to understand the structure of viruses on the molecular level. This information is then used to try to understand how the virus functions.

SARS was the first new infectious disease identified in the 21st century. This particular respiratory illness originated in China in November 2002 and the WHO identified this new coronavirus (SARS-CoV) as the agent that led to this outbreak.

We are now in the middle of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019 and is known as COVID-19. To date there are no vaccines or therapeutics to fight this illness.

Both of these illnesses share the same spike protein, the entry key that allows the virus into human cells. The team’s idea was to take the antibodies found in the 2002 outbreak (80R and m396) and re-engineer them to fit the current COVID-19 virus.

Through using computer stimulation, Padilla-Sanchez discovered that differences in sequences prevent 80R and m396 from binding to COVID-19. Understanding why these antibodies did not bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein might pave the way to engineering new antibodies that are effective. Mutated versions of the two antibodies can be produced and administered as a therapeutic to fight the disease and prevent infection.

Padilla-Sanchez’s docking experiments indicated that amino acid substitutions in 80R and m396 should increase binding interactions between the two antibodies and SARS-CoV-2 which would provide new antibodies to neutralize the virus. His next step is to prove it in the lab.

The docking experiments were ran on Stampede2 using Rosetta software suite which includes algorithms for computational modeling and analysis of protein structures. This software binds the proteins then provides a score for each binding experiment. If a good docking position can be found, then it can be recommended that this new, mutated antibody should go to production.

Currently a variety of labs across the globe are already testing vaccines. If a vaccine isn’t found in the near term we still have passive immunity which can prevent infection for several months as long as a person has the antibodies. Passive immunity might be a fast track in providing relief for the pandemic.

To view the original scientific study click below

In silico analysis of SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and insights into antibody binding.