Everyday our team of researchers in Oxford are inundated with scientific, and medical research articles that have the potential to improve health, wellbeing, and longevity. In this blog we highlight a few of them that caught our attention today.
Our immune system doesn’t just protect us from infections, it also plays a key role in our aging process
Why is this important: As we grow older our immune system stops functioning in an optimal manner resulting in either overreaction to minor infections causing inflammation, or not being able to detect deadly pathogens causing severe illness. Currently, we are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and we can see that people over the 65-years are approximately 40-times more likely to die from COVID due to aging immune systems, when compared to people under age of 40.
Key takeaway(s): The researchers found that changes during aging in both our innate and adaptive immune system are caused due to breaking down of our thymus gland, unchecked expansion of infection detecting T-cells, and increased levels of chemicals that promote inflammation, known as cytokines. This process is known as immunosenescence.
Immunosenescence was observed in people with neurodegenerative diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular, and type-2 diabetes, but whether it is causal or not is hard to determine.
How much exercise do we need to do to stay healthy, and live long?
Why is this important: We all know that regular exercise is great for keeping fit, and improving our health. But how much exercise do we need, or better yet, how little exercise can we getaway with whilst still enjoying all its benefits?
Key takeaway(s): The researchers found that just by increasing ones moderate to vigorous physical activity from ~7 mins/day to ~16 mins/day decreases mortality by 30%. But if you want to live the longest you’ll have to do ~46 mins/day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, accompanied by some light intensity exercise so that you can burn about 600 to 700 calories. The people who were able to do this had 77% lower mortality risk.
How the cellular environment changes in ageing brains
Why is this important: During normal ageing, cognitive function declines due to multiple changes in the brain, from decreases in overall brain volume to chemical changes in individual cells. We aim to understand all of these changes in order to find ways to one day reverse cognitive decline.
What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers were able to use a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMR) approaches to compare chemical diffusion inside the brain cells of young and old adults.
Key takeaway(s): Neurochemicals diffuse faster in older adults, and the changes in the cellular environment responsible for this could contribute to brain ageing. This study demonstrates that it is feasible to measure these changes in ageing human brains, and opens up the possibility of further research.
New potential biomarker for osteoporosis is discovered
Why is this important: Osteoporosis is an aging-related chronic condition that weakens the bones, making them more fragile to a point that bones are breaking from a sneeze. It usually goes undetected until the first fracture occurs, causing patient suffering and cost to health/social services.
What did the researchers do:In this study, researchers have studied the levels of cathepsin Z mRNA in the peripheral mononuclear blood cells of 88 recruited participants. Those participants were split into 3 categories: non-osteoporotic control, those who suffer from osteopenia and those affected by osteoporosis.
Key takeaway(s): Even though levels of cathepsin Z mRNA in peripheral mononuclear blood cells are significantly bigger in patients with osteopenia and osteoporosis, researches cannot rule away that said elevation is not due to aging. However, they argue that in participants over 50, age is not an important factor in the increase of cathepsin mRNA levels.