Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Jul 2002

In The News

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk of heart attack, stem cell therapy, etc.

Dramatic evidence shows omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk of heart attack

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A growing body of research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids, found in certain types of fish and fish oil supplements, may reduce the risk of heart disease and sudden death due to heart-related causes.

A study published in the April 9, 2002 issue of Circulation found that 1000 mg aday of a fish oil concentrate reduced the risk of sudden deathfrom heart-related causes by 45% in patients who had suffereda heart attack within the previous three months. A secondstudy, published in the April 10, 2002 issue of JAMA, revealed that women whoconsumed a minimum of five servings of fish per week over a16-year period lowered their risk of coronary heart disease(CHD) by more than a third, and reduced their risk of fatalheart attack by half. Even subjects who consumed fish only oneto three times per month lowered their risk by 20%. A thirdstudy reported in the April 11, 2002 issue of the New EnglandJournal of Medicine determined that men without heart diseasewere 81% less likely to experience sudden death due to fatalarrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) when their blood levels ofomega-3 fatty acids were high regardless of their age, smokinghabits or amount of other types of fatty acids in theirblood.

Despite consensus that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce heartdisease and sudden death due to heart-related causes, medicalexperts report conflicting messages on how best to reap theserewards. Life Extension has long advocated that people eatcold-water fish and supplement with omega-3 fatty acids fromfish, flax or Perilla oils.

—Elizabeth Heubeck

Stem cell therapy for Parkinson's disease

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Since the advent of stem cell research, Parkinson’s researchers have worked to create and implant dopamine-producing cells into the brains of patients, hoping to renew the substantia nigra’s natural ability to make this neurotransmitter. A research team at CelMed Biosciences in Montreal, Quebec has successfully employed this stem cell biotechnology to dramatically reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) in Chicago, Illinois.

Neurosurgeon Michel Levesque, M.D., CelMed’s Vice President of Medical Affairs, and Toomas Neuman, M.D., CelMed’s Program Director of Neurodifferentiation, harvested stem cells from the brain of a Parkinson’s disease patient. These cells were then cultured to yield several million cells, 20% of which produced dopamine. In March 1999, these cells were microinjected into the patient’s brain at six different locations.

Evaluations of the patient’s symptoms were performed at three, six, nine and 12 months following the procedure, by neurologists who were not aware that the patient had received the stem cell transplant. While still on Parkinson’s medications, the patient’s motor skill scores improved by 37%, and a year post-transplant, the overall Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) showed an 83% improvement without medications.

PET (Positron Electron Transmission) scans performed at three months and one year revealed a 55.6% improvement in dopamine uptake, followed by a return of dopamine uptake to pre-implantation levels by the study’s end. The fact that symptom measurements improved despite the continued decline in dopamine uptake suggests that the therapy’s benefit is the result of factors other than increased dopamine uptake. Dr. Levesque believes that some other element present in the implanted cells may be responsible for the dramatic improvements seen in this patient.

Autologous stem cell therapy, where stem cells from the patient’s own body are extracted, cultured and re-implanted, is a highly promising research avenue for other disorders that are currently incurable, including juvenile diabetes and spinal cord injury, as well as the neurological damage done by strokes and brain tumors. With the use of stem cells drawn from the patient, common problems of rejection and infection—as well as the ethical and legal concerns inherent in the use of embryonic stem cells—can be avoided. Stem cell research involves the use of undifferentiated cells to grow specific types of body cells that can no longer perform their necessary functions.

—Melissa Block

Hypothermia for cardiac arrest

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Two studies appearing in the February 21, 2002 issue of New England Journal of Medicine have demonstrated favorable outcomes for the use of hypothermia in patients experiencing cardiac arrest. In the first study, conducted by the Hypothermia after Cardiac Arrest Study Group at several centers over a five year period, 136 patients who had been resuscitated after cardiac arrest were cooled to a body temperature of 32 to 34 degrees Celsius for 24 hours followed by an approximately eight hour rewarming period. This group was compared to a control group of 138 patients who received standard care after cardiac resuscitation. In the hypothermia group, 59% of the patients were alive after six months, whereas 45% remained in the group not receiving it. Of the group receiving the hypothermia treatment, 55% experienced a favorable neurologic outcome, compared to 39% in the group who did not receive the treatment.

In the second study, comatose survivors of cardiac arrest out of the hospital were randomized to receive cooling as soon as admitted to a participating hospital or to receive treatment without cooling. Of the group treated with hypothermia, 49% survived and were discharged to their homes or to rehabilitation facilities. Only 26% of the group not receiving hypothermia experienced similar outcomes.

An editorial in the same issue of the journal notes that therapeutic hypothermia has been in use since the 1950s. In the 1990s, hypothermia provided positive outcomes for dogs experiencing a lack of blood flow for 10 to 12 minutes. The editorialists, Peter J. Safar, M.D. and Patrick M. Kochanek, M.D., wrote, “The dismal outcomes after cardiac arrest call for novel therapeutic approaches,” and they “recommend the use of mild hypothermia in survivors of cardiac arrest as early as possible and for at least 12 hours.” Life Extension Foundation has been on the forefront in funding hypothermia research and these new studies substantiate that this technology will save human lives.

—Dayna Dye