News flashes are posted here frequently to keep you up-to-date with the latest advances in health and longevity. We have an unparalleled track record of breaking stories about life extension advances.
N-acetylglucosamine shows promise for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy
June 29 2018. Research reported on June 12, 2018 in The FASEB Journal suggests a potential benefit in the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD, a hereditary disease characterized by muscle degeneration) for the glucose derivative N-acetylglucosamine. "It's a simple sugar whose structure differs from that of glucosamine, which is sold to treat joint problems," explained lead researcher Professor Sachiko Sato of Laval University.
In DMD, muscle contraction results in damage, which necessitates muscle repair via myogenesis (the formation of new muscle tissue). Repeated myogenesis leads to the exhaustion of myogenic stem cells. Dr Sato and colleagues determined that N-acetylglucosamine and a protein known as galectin-3, which is expressed in myoblasts and skeletal muscle, promoted myogenesis in vitro. In a mouse model of DMD, the administration of N-acetylglucosamine improved muscle strength by 50% after 10 days in comparison with control mice. "We don't know yet whether the molecule increases the production of muscular fiber or improves its survival rate, but we found that the mice's muscular strength was better preserved," Dr Sato commented.
"N-acetylglucosamine is an inexpensive product that can be synthesized in a lab or extracted from crustacean shells,” she observed. “It is found in human milk as the sugar with the second highest concentration after lactose. Everything indicates that it is worth testing its effectiveness in improving the quality of life of DMD patients. We now need to conduct clinical trials in order to confirm the substance's effectiveness on humans and determine the treatment's duration and dosage."
"People have a lot of hope for gene therapy, but it will still take years of research before we find an effective treatment," Dr Sato added. "That's why it's important to find other treatments to help preserve the muscular strength of patients as long as possible."
Food fortification may not be enough
June 27 2018. The July 2018 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition reported a study conducted by Irish researchers which found significantly decreased levels of folate and vitamin B12 among men and women aged 50 and older despite the implementation of voluntary vitamin fortification of staple grains.
By evaluating data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Dr Eamon J. Laird and colleagues determined that 1 in 7 subjects aged 50 and older had low or deficient levels of folate and 1 in 8 were low in vitamin B12. Low folate levels were found in 14% of subjects between the ages of 50 and 60 years and 23% of those over 80. While supplementation with both vitamins was higher among women than men, less than 4% of the study population reported supplementing with either vitamin.
"This is the largest representative and most comprehensive study of vitamin B12 and folate status in older adults ever conducted in Ireland,” Dr Laird announced. “Our findings will provide useful data to help inform public health policy--particularly regarding the proposition of mandatory folic acid and/or vitamin B12 fortification. To place our findings in context, in a country such as the United States where mandatory folic acid fortification occurs, rates of low folate status are around 1.2% in older adults compared with 15% in Ireland."
"This study shows a surprising level of inadequate folate among older persons, despite many years of voluntary folic acid fortification of certain foods on the Irish market,” senior author Anne Molloy concluded. “In countries such as the US, mandatory folic acid food fortification for the past 20 years has prevented millions of cases of folate deficiency without any proven adverse effects. Irish public health authorities need to act on the facts from studies such as ours."
Iron dysregulation found in Alzheimer’s brains
June 25 2018. An article that appeared on April 24, 2018 in Nanoscale announced the discovery of abnormal iron compounds in the amyloid protein plaques that characterize the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Iron dysregulation has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, an age-related neurodegenerative condition which is the most common cause of dementia amongst the elderly,” write James Everett of Keele University and colleagues. “Evidence of significant cell damage, in conjunction with markers of oxidative stress, has resulted in oxidative damage being investigated as a major effector of neurodegeneration. Increased levels of material incorporating ferrous iron, potentially capable of catalysing redox chemistry have been reported postmortem in Alzheimer’s disease subjects compared to age-matched disease-free controls. It is therefore possible that increased redox-active iron loading in Alzheimer’s disease provides a source of oxidative stress.”
In amyloid plaque derived from the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients, the researchers identified chemically reduced iron species that included a magnetic iron oxide known as magnetite that is not normally found in the human brain. The compounds have the potential to form during interactions between iron and amyloid protein.
"Iron is an essential element in the brain, so it is critical to understand how its management is affected in Alzheimer's disease,” noted coauthor Joanna Collingwood, who is an associate professor at the University of Warwick's School of Engineering and an expert in trace metals analysis. “The advanced x-ray techniques that we used in this study have delivered a step-change in the level of information that we can obtain about iron chemistry in the amyloid plaques. We are excited to have these new insights into how amyloid plaque formation influences iron chemistry in the human brain, as our findings coincide with efforts by others to treat Alzheimer's disease with iron-modifying drugs."
Probiotics benefit bones
June 22 2018. In a first, Swedish researchers have discovered protective effects for probiotic supplementation against the loss of bone that occurs in aging humans. The study was reported on June 21, 2018 in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
In a randomized trial, 90 women with low bone mineral density who were between the ages of 75 to 80 years were given a placebo or the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri 6475 for 12 months. Tibial bone mineral density was assessed at the beginning and end of the study.
"When we finished the study after a year, we measured the women's bone loss in their lower legs with a CT scan and compared it with the measurements we made when the study began,” reported first author Anna G. Nilsson, who is a chief physician and associate professor at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg. “The women who received the powder with active bacteria had lost only half as much bone in the skeleton compared with those who received inactive powders. Another positive outcome from the study was that the treatment was well tolerated and did not produce more side effects than those experienced by women who received the placebo."
"Today there are effective medications administered to treat osteoporosis, but because bone fragility is rarely detected before the first fracture, there is a pressing need for preventive treatments," commented senior author Mattias Lorentzon, who is a chief physician and professor of geriatrics at Sahlgrenska Academy. "Older women are the group in society most at risk of osteoporosis and fractures. The fact that we have been able to show that treatment with probiotics can affect bone loss represents a paradigm shift. Treatment with probiotics can be an effective and safe way to prevent the onset of osteoporosis in many older people in the future.”
Inadequate vitamin D levels associated with interstitial lung disease
June 20 2018. An article appearing on June 19, 2018 in the Journal of Nutrition documents a link between decreased vitamin D levels and a greater risk of early signs of interstitial lung disease (ILD), a group of disorders characterized by inflammation and scarring that can lead to lung damage. Although ILD can be caused by environmental and other factors, some cases have unknown causes.
The investigation included 6,302 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis who had information available concerning their initial serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and computed tomography (CT) imaging that included partial views of the lungs. Ten years after enrollment, 2,668 participants had full lung CT scans that were evaluated for presence of scar tissue and other abnormalities.
Subjects who had deficient vitamin D levels of less than 20 ng/mL had more spots on their lungs that were suggestive of damage in comparison with subjects whose vitamin D was adequate. Among those who had full lung CT scans, deficient or intermediate (between 20-30 ng/mL) vitamin D levels were associated with a 50-60% greater risk of abnormalities suggestive of ILD.
"We knew that the activated vitamin D hormone has anti-inflammatory properties and helps regulate the immune system, which goes awry in ILD," commented senior author Erin Michos, MD, MHS. “There was also evidence in the literature that vitamin D plays a role in obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, and we now found that the association exists with this scarring form of lung disease too."
"Our study suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D may be important for lung health,” she concluded. “We might now consider adding vitamin D deficiency to the list of factors involved in disease processes, along with the known ILD risk factors such as environmental toxins and smoking.”
Higher vitamin D levels may be needed for colorectal cancer protection
June 18 2018. An article appearing on June 14, 2018 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported findings from researchers at the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and other organizations of a significant association between higher vitamin D levels and a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
"To address inconsistencies in prior studies on vitamin D and to investigate associations in population subgroups, we analyzed participant-level data, collected before colorectal cancer diagnosis, from 17 prospective cohorts and used standardized criteria across the studies," noted co-senior author Stephanie Smith-Warner, PhD, who is an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study compared more than 5,700 individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer cases and 7,100 control subjects from the United States, Europe, and Asia. A single laboratory was used for new vitamin D measurements and calibration of existing measurements. "In the past, substantial differences between assays made it difficult to integrate vitamin D data from different studies," commented co-senior author Regina G. Ziegler, PhD, who is an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute. "This calibration approach enabled us to systematically explore risk over the broad range of vitamin D levels seen internationally."
Individuals with vitamin D levels categorized as deficient had a 31% greater risk of colorectal cancer during a 5.5-year average follow-up period compared to those whose levels were considered sufficient for bone health. Having a higher vitamin D level was associated with a 22% lower risk.
First author Marji L. McCullough, ScD, concluded that "This study adds new information that agencies can use when reviewing evidence for vitamin D guidance and suggests that the concentrations recommended for bone health may be lower than would be optimal for colorectal cancer prevention."
Active form of vitamin D shows promise against ovarian cancer
June 15 2018. Research reported on May 31, 2018 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D available by prescription, may increase the odds of surviving ovarian cancer.
Using a computer modeling technique, Stephen T. Wong, PhD, and colleagues at Houston Methodist Research Institute analyzed genomic data to identify a molecular pathway between high-grade serous ovarian cancer cells and supportive fibroblast cells. The results were used to screen potential pharmaceutical treatments, resulting in the identification of calcitriol as an agent that suppresses molecular communication between cancer cells and surrounding fibroblasts.
"In this era of big data, we can systematically identify pathways and therapies, as we're using an unbiased approach to look at all possibilities," Dr Wong explained. "Our computational modeling can tell you which pathway is important for a particular disease."
"We identified a signaling pathway, called Smad, as the culprit of poor ovarian cancer outcomes," he reported. "Reprogramming these cells by targeting their communication networks presents an opportunity for the development of new cancer treatment strategies. If we focus on targeting these supportive cells in the tumor microenvironment instead of the tumor itself, it could lead to less toxic, more effective treatments."
"Targeting cancer cells might not be the only solution to treating cancer,” noted co-senior author Samuel Mok, PhD, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Other cells in the tumor and surrounding microenvironment, such as fibroblasts, immune cells, fat cells and other supportive cells make up the very complex ecosystem of tumors that we need to understand.”
"We know that cells in the tumor microenvironment actually support the cancer and may contribute to its aggressiveness,” concluded co-author Karen Lu, MD. “This study opens up a new potential avenue for developing ovarian cancer treatments."
Nicotinamide riboside shows promise for treatment of Parkinson’s disease
June 13 2018. The June 5, 2018 issue of Cell Reports documented findings from German researchers of a potential benefit for nicotinamide riboside in Parkinson’s disease. Nicotinamide riboside is a precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), an enzyme that plays an important role in the maintenance of healthy cellular metabolism, including support of the mitochondria, the energy-producing plants within our cells.
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the death of nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain. It has been observed that mitochondria contained in these cells have significant damage. “In our study we aimed to investigate whether damaged mitochondria were merely a side effect or whether they cause Parkinson's disease,” explained lead researcher Michela Deleidi of the Helmholtz Association and the University of Tübingen.
To determine whether boosting mitochondrial biogenesis and function with an NAD+ precursor reduces Parkinson’s disease pathology, Dr Deleidi and colleagues tested nicotinamide riboside’s effects in neuronal stem cell lines derived from Parkinson’s disease patients with the most common Parkinson’s disease genetic defect and in fruit flies that also had the defective gene. They found that increasing NAD+ by administering nicotinamide riboside ameliorated the mitochondrial dysfunction that is evident in the diseased cells. “This substance stimulates the energy metabolism in the affected nerve cells and protects them from dying off,” Dr Deleidi reported.
In Parkinson’s disease flies, nicotinamide riboside prevented age-related loss of neurons that produce dopamine and protected against a decline in mobility. “Our results suggest that the loss of mitochondria does indeed play a significant role in the genesis of Parkinson’s disease,” Dr Deleidi concluded. “Administering nicotinamide riboside may be a new starting-point for treatment.”
“Other studies have shown that it is well tolerated by healthy test subjects and has potential beneficial effects on cardiovascular health,” she added.
French oak wood extract aids flu recovery
June 11 2018. The May 2018 issue of The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness published the finding of European researchers of a benefit for Robuvit® French oak wood extract in recovery from influenza.
While the malaise and fatigue that follow the flu are well known to most individuals, research has also revealed an increased risk of bacterial infection and heart attack during this period.
The study enrolled 38 patients between the ages of 65 and 75 during the 3 days that followed a 7 to 10-day bout of influenza. "Individuals over the age of 65 are the most susceptible group for complications with the flu,” commented natural health physician and author Dr Fred Pescatore. “Since this age group typically has a weakened immune system, it takes even longer to fully recover from nagging flu symptoms like fatigue and feeling of weakness.”
Subjects received a standard management plan with or without daily supplementation with 300 milligrams French oak wood extract for 3 weeks. After 10 days, participants who received oak wood extract experienced improvement in heart rate, oxygen saturation, strength and recovery after exertion compared to the unsupplemented group. At the end of the 3-week treatment period, strength was recovered by 85% of supplemented subjects in comparison with 60% of the control group. Sleep quality, exertion recovery, attention span, and working and concentration capacity also improved to a significantly greater extent in the supplemented group.
"These findings show promising results for patients to rebuild strength after a bout of the flu," Dr Pescatore concluded. "Robuvit®'s natural antioxidant properties reduce oxidative stress and its anti-fatigue benefits help to promote energy during flu recovery . . . It's particularly important for seniors with weakened immune systems who are at-risk of developing other ailments during their recovery.”
Meta-analysis finds cardiovascular benefits for plant protein, fiber, nuts and sterols
June 8 2018. Findings from a meta-analysis published on May 26, 2018 in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases indicatethat a “Portfolio Diet” is associated with lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as improvement in other markers of cardiovascular disease risk.
“The portfolio dietary pattern (also known as the “Dietary Portfolio” or “Portfolio Diet”) is a plant-based dietary pattern that was first devised in the early 2000s as a ‘portfolio’ of 4 cholesterol-lowering foods, each of which has a Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada, and/or European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved health claim for cholesterol-lowering or cardiovascular (CV) disease (CVD) risk reduction,” explained author Laura Chiavaroli of the University of Toronto Department of Nutritional Sciences and colleagues. Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, the plan includes 50 grams plant protein, 20 grams viscous soluble fiber, 42 grams nuts and 2 grams plant sterols.
For their analysis, the authors selected 5 reports that included 7 trial comparisons of the Portfolio diet with a control diet that provided the same number of calories. Of 439 participants in the 7 trials, 10-year coronary heart disease risk data was available for 415 men and women. The analysis found that adherence to the Portfolio diet was associated with a 17% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Total cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation) were also reduced. Ten-year coronary heart disease risk was lowered by 13 percent.
"Previous clinical trials and observational studies have found strong evidence that a plant-based diet can improve heart health," commented coauthor Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD. "This study demonstrates that certain plant foods are especially effective for lowering cholesterol and boosting our overall cardiovascular health."
Aspirin before and after bypass improves survival
June 6 2018. A presentation on June 3, 2018 at the Euroanaesthesia Congress revealed that aspirin consumed prior to and after coronary artery bypass graft surgery was associated with a lower risk of mortality after 4 years in comparison with no aspirin use. According to the authors of the abstract, “Cardiac surgery frequently provokes an extreme and complex stress and hypercoagulable state, with an increased predisposition to long-term vascular morbidity and mortality.”
The study included data from 4,132 patients who underwent coronary artery bypass grafting, among whom 76.5% received aspirin within 5 days preceding their surgeries and 92.3% received continuous postoperative aspirin. Subjects who received preoperative aspirin had a greater incidence of preexisting cardiovascular disease risk factors, including hypertension.
Those who received preoperative aspirin had a 3% risk of mortality in comparison with a 4.74% risk among nonusers during the 30-day postoperative period. Postoperative bleeding was similar between aspirin users and nonusers. During the 4-year follow-up, subjects who used aspirin before their bypass surgery had a 14.8% risk of dying compared to 18.1% among nonusers, and postoperative use was associated with a 10.7% versus a 16.2% risk, which is a 34% reduction.
"Our study showed that aspirin was associated with similar effectiveness to other proven medical treatments in patients with cardiovascular disease, such as statins and ACE inhibitors,” commented first author Jianzhong Sun, who is the Director of Clinical Outcomes Research at the Department of Anesthesiology of Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals. "Among patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting, perioperative uses of aspirin were associated with significant reduction in 30-day mortality and improvement in long-term survival, without significant increased postoperative bleeding complications. We believe that all patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting should take aspirin before and after the procedure, except those for whom aspirin is contraindicated."
Probiotics and Ayurvedic medicine extend life in flies
June 4 2018. An article published on May 30, 2018 in Scientific Reports documents an extension of life span of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster treated with probiotics and the Ayurvedic medicine triphala, which contains amla (Indian gooseberry) and two other fruits.
The researchers gave the flies one of three probiotics (Lactobacillus plantarum NCIMB 826, Lactobacillus fermentum NCIMB 5221 and Bifidobacterium longum spp. infantis NCIMB 7022550), triphala, a combination of the three probiotics, or the probiotic combination plus triphala (described as a synbiotic). A control group received an unsupplemented diet.
Flies that received the probiotic-triphala combination survived to the age of 66 days, which was 26 days longer than survival among the control group. They also had less inflammation, insulin resistance and oxidative stress. “In this study, novel probiotic and synbiotic formulations are shown to combinatorially extend longevity in male Drosophila melanogaster through mechanisms of gut-brain-axis communication with implications in chronic disease management,” write Satya Prakash and colleagues at McGill University. “Both the probiotic and synbiotic formulations rescued markers of metabolic stress by managing insulin resistance and energy regulatory pathways.”
"Probiotics dramatically change the architecture of the gut microbiota, not only in its composition but also in respect to how the foods that we eat are metabolized," noted Dr Prakash, who is a professor of biomedical engineering in McGill's Faculty of Medicine. "This allows a single probiotic formulation to simultaneously act on several biochemical signaling pathways to elicit broad beneficial physiological effects and explains why the single formulation we present in this paper has such a dramatic effect on so many different markers".
"The effects in humans would likely not be as dramatic, but our results definitely suggest that a diet specifically incorporating triphala along with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life," Dr Prakash concluded.
Green tea’s plaque-removing property could benefit arteries
June 1 2018. A report appearing on June 1, 2018 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests that the green tea compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) could help dissolve atherosclerotic plaque associated with heart attack and stroke. The compound is currently under investigation in regard to its ability to reduce amyloid plaque in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at Lancaster University and the University of Leeds found that EGCG binds to the amyloid fibers of apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA-1), which can form amyloid deposits in arterial plaques similar to those that occur in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. These deposits enlarge plaque and make it less stable, which increases the risk of cardiovascular events. The binding of EGCG to apoA-1 amyloid fibers results in the conversion of the fibers to smaller soluble molecules that are less damaging. The team is seeking a method of delivering significant amounts of EGCG into the bloodstream without the need to drink large quantities of green tea.
"The health benefits of green tea have been widely promoted and it has been known for some time that EGCG can alter the structures of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease,” commented researcher David Middleton who is a Professor in Chemistry at Lancaster University. "Our results show that this intriguing compound might also be effective against the types of plaques which can cause heart attacks and strokes."
"The findings of this round of studies are very encouraging,” commented coauthor Professor Sheena Radford, who is the Director of the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds. “We now need to apply the best scientific techniques to find how we can take the molecular EGCG element from green tea and turn it into a functioning tool to combat life-limiting health issues."