A new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston offers important insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins within the brain.
The researchers found a relationship between inflammation, a toxic protein and the onset of the disease.
The study also identified a way that doctors can detect early signs of Alzheimer’s by looking at the back of patients’ eyes.
“Early detection of Alzheimer’s warning signs would allow for early intervention and prevention of neurodegeneration before major brain cell loss and cognitive decline occurs,” said lead author Ashley Nilson, neuroscientist. “Using the retina for detecting AD and other neurodegenerative diseases would be non-invasive, inexpensive and could become a part of a normal screening done at patient checkups.”
UTMB researchers have previously found evidence that a toxic form of tau protein may underlie the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Brain cells depend on tau protein to form highways for the cell to receive nutrients and get rid of waste. In some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, the tau protein becomes a toxic form called tau oligomers and begins clumping into neurofibrillary tangles. When this happens, nutrients can no longer move to where they are needed and the oligomers produce toxic effects leading to the eventual death of the brain cells.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that inflammation within the brain plays an important role in Alzheimer’s development and progression. Inflammation and loss of connections between nerves within the brain happen before the formation of the tangles that are characteristic of this disease.
It’s possible that the tau oligomers may be responsible for this inflammation.
In a recent paper in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, UTMB’s research team detailed their investigation on the relationship between inflammation, toxic Tau and Alzheimer’s onset by performing systematic analyses of brain and retina samples from people with Alzheimer’s and a mouse model of Alzheimer’s.
The results demonstrated that the toxic Tau may induce inflammation in Alzheimer’s. The toxic Tau spreads between connected brain regions, which may initiate inflammation in these new regions. This situation can create a cycle of toxic Tau, inflammation and cell death throughout the brain over time.
Beyond determining eye health and corrective lens prescriptions, having an eye exam can alert health care professionals of several different health conditions including diabetic complications, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now, UTMB researchers found that retina tissue that they studied can show evidence of toxic tau and inflammation.
“Our findings suggest that the degeneration of nerve cells due to chronic inflammation induced by the tau oligomers may be combated through the combination of anti-tau oligomer and anti-inflammatory therapeutics for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and related diseases,” said senior author Rakez Kayed, associate professor in the UTMB Department of Neurology. “Our is continuing to expand our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.”
Ian: This article piqued my interest because (apart from my own brush with dementia) I have been researching the properties of molecular hydrogen, which may be produced by infusion in our water filter invention, or through a special form of magnesium tablet. One of three major reported benefits to the use of molecular hydrogen infused in water has been support for our natural inflammation process and healing. The other two major reported benefits are selective antioxidant abilities and anti allergenic ability.
(To learn more go to the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation).
So far molecular hydrogen looks like many other products touted as anti inflammatory. But there’s a big difference. H2 is the smallest molecule in the universe. It passes through the body with ease. And unlike all other supplements, it also passes through the blood-brain barrier, accessing the brain. This barrier is a natural defence to preserve the brain’s integrity against anything that may harm it, and as such is a marvellous piece of design. But just take a look at this video, (the sound is rough) to see what happened to an old friend when we gave him a bottle of molecular hydrogen generating tablets!
Story Source: Materials provided by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Journal Reference: Ashley N. Nilson, Kelsey C. English, Julia E. Gerson, T. Barton Whittle, C. Nicolas Crain, Judy Xue, Urmi Sengupta, Diana L. Castillo-Carranza, Wenbo Zhang, Praveena Gupta, Rakez Kayed. Tau Oligomers Associate with Inflammation in the Brain and Retina of Tauopathy Mice and in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-160912
This story highlights the crossover diagnosis that I am hearing about more often. And it’s exacerbated by the prevailing attitude of the established medical fraternity to Lyme disease. The US is ahead of us here in Australia where it’s not even considered a ‘real’ disease. So I was not surprised at this article about Kris Kristofferson.
Six years ago I was suffering all of the symptoms of early onset Alzheimers. I won’t detail my experience, but if anyone is interested it’s all in the video below.
I have a closer friend whose partner suffered as much through the misdiagnosis of her Lyme’s disease as she did from the disease. Spending over $100,000 with various practitioners, but traditional and alternative, she went through a living hell not only of disease but also of the feeling of complete loss of control as diagnosis after diagnosis failed her.
We eventually gave her a bottle of I LOVE H2. She was a fitness fanatic, but of course in her state she was not even capable of her reputation as ‘The runner” that she had earned at the gym with her marathon treadmill sessions.
She’s back and running today. We can’t claim to be a part of her healing because I LOV E H2 is simple a sports supplement, but what we can say was that when she came in to see us, we just didn’t recognise this beautiful, glowing new woman.
Here’s a comment I just received from my friend, her partner on this article.
“Thanks for that Ian. Until my partner was clinically diagnosed as having Lyme Disease she simply thought she was “losing it” emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s so easy to classify a person with all these weird symptoms and expressions as simply hyperchondriac, especially because of the amount of anxiety, depression and endless fatigue that come with such a shut down of the endocrine system.”
The Body Brain Barrier is a membrane that prevents anything that shouldn’t get to our brain passing through it.
It’s essential in protecting the brain from toxins of all forms but is so efficient that it also prevents drugs entering the brain. This has inhibited the formulation of many Alzheimers drug strategies that rely on direct brain contact.
Of course we now know that there are amy things we don’t wnat to get into our brain; one big one being EMF from our mobile phones. damage is easily seen in the brain; whether it is directly caused by the phones is still being fiercely debated. That the brain suffers oxidative damge is not in dispute.
So imagine something with proven selective antioxidant and anti inflammatory abilities. Now imagine that ‘something’ can easily penetrate the brain body barrier.
Now imagine that same something that easily passes out of the brain via the skull if it encounters nothing in the brain it can assist with.
Wow. That’s molecular hydrogen, and a huge number of studies are indicating ita vast number of therapeutic capabilities, including Alzheimers’.
Here’s a video of a discussion with George,a friend of mine, and here’s a list of over sixty scientific studies on the same subject.
..and while we make no claims about the ability of our products to work this way, we do sell products that may assist your body by facilitating its ability to access molecular hydrogen. Learn more here.
What if millions of medical diagnoses, procedures, and treatments were based on, at best, questionable scientific evidence, but still performed daily, the world over, in the name of saving patients lives or reducing their suffering? A new JAMA review indicates this may be exactly what is happening.
A disturbing new review published in JAMA online about overuse of medical care, i.e., health care where “risk of harm exceeds its potential for benefit,” concludes that many common medical procedures, given to millions are subjected to each year, have questionable or even non-existent evidence.
According to the review, co-authored by researchers from some of the country’s most respected medical institutions, medical overuse can also be defined as ‘a health care practice, about which when patients are fully informed, they would choose to forego care’. They go further:
Medical Overuse encompasses over diagnosis, which occurs when “individuals are diagnosed with conditions that will never cause symptoms,” and over treatment, which is treatment targeting over diagnosed disease or from which there is minimal or no benefit.”
Obviously when information is withheld on the real risks and benefits of a procedure, the whole principle of informed consent is violated. It’s a far too common occurrence in today’s medicine where money competes with scientific evidence to drive the doctor’s consensus that determines standard of care. It appears published biomedical literature is so corrupted by industry influence, and bias, that the entire ideal of ‘Evidence-Based Medicine” is in reality based on no more than a coin’s flip worth of certainty.
There’s also the more insidious problem of the mis-classification or misunderstanding of disease. This can mislead health care professionals and their patients into performing or undergoing harmful procedures without anyone understanding and accepting the harm and even lethal result they have wrought.
Over the past eight years, a vast, submerged iceberg of overdiagnosed and overtreated medical conditions, with the worst examples being common forms of breast, prostate, thyroid, and ovarian cancer has been identified. It wasn’t till 2013 that the issue broke open.
A National Cancer Institute commissioned expert panel acknowledged that early-stage or ‘stage zero’ breast (DCIS) and prostate (HGPIN) “cancers” are actually benign or indolent lesions of epithelial origin and should never have been, and should never be, termed “carcinomas.”
Summarizing, the report revealed that millions have been wrongly diagnosed and treated for breast and prostate cancers over the past few decades that they never had. In the case of stage zero breast ‘cancer’, some 1.3 million American women were subjected to sa combination of either mastectomy, lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy over the past 30 years, even though their screen-detected condition had no symptoms. Left untreated this would likely never have caused them any harm. It doesn’t even account for the radiobiological harm caused by x-ray mammography. This could well have planted the seeds of malignancy into the healthy breasts of millions of women in the name of “prevention through early detection.”
The study, titled “Update on Medical Practices That Should Be Questioned in 2015,” reviewed 910 articles published in 2014, of which 440 directly addressed medical overuse. 104 of these were selected as “most relevant,” with the 10 most influential articles selected by author consensus, and forming the basis for their 10-topic critique, which is divided into three sections: overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and methods to avoid medical overuse.
- Asymptomatic Carotid Stenosis: Colloquially known as “blocked or restricted arteries in the neck,” carotid artery stenosis often presents with no symptoms (asymptomatic), and yet is routinely treated with carotid angioplasty and stenting (placing a balloon or stent within the artery to open it) or surgical endarterectomy (removal of the inner lining of the artery and obstructive deposits found there) as “precautionary measures.” The review referenced a systematic review and meta-analysis by the US Preventive Services Task Force that found no studies providing data on whether screening for carotid stenosis reduced stroke. What was found is that carotid ultrasonography screening leads to many false-positives; a finding that I believe, contributes to increased morbidity and mortality in screened populations. This is especially apparent when you consider that safe and effective non-surgical alternatives exist: pomegranate juice has been found to reverse carotid artery stenosis within only months!
- Screening Pelvic Examinations Are Inaccurate in Asymptomatic Women and Are Associated With Harms That Exceed Clinical Benefits.
Pelvic examination is often included in annual preventive visits for women and usually consists of both visual examination and the insertion of the hand and instruments like a speculum in the vagina. This soft-tissue evaluation includes the upper genital tracts, as well as urethra, bladder, and rectum. Amazingly, a cited review found no studies assessing the effect of pelvic examinations on morbidity or mortality from cancers (including ovarian cancers) or benign gynecological conditions. Moreover, it was found that the harms of screening include “discomfort, anxiety, psychological effects, embarrassment, and unnecessary procedures, including surgery (1.4% [29 of 2000] of women in one study).” The review opined strongly about the study implications: “Do not perform screening pelvic examinations. Clinicians should educate female patients about the low value of the examination. This review informed a new guideline from the American College of Physicians recommending against routine pelvic examinations for screening asymptomatic women.” [emphasis added] Given the lack of evidence supporting pelvic examinations, could the practice be considered just another form of the violation of women by medical care providers, not unlike unnecessary C-sections?
- Head Computed Tomography Is Often Ordered but Is Rarely Helpful:
Computer tomography uses ionizing radiation and sometimes a contrasting agent in diagnosis, both of which have significant potential to cause adverse health effects. Often CT scans produce incidental, and clinically unimportant findings, and will lead to additional CT scans being ordered. The review concluded, “A second head CT scan rarely affects patient management. Clinicians should be judicious in ordering multiple CT scans in the same patient.” Consider also, that a study published in the NEJM in 2007 estimated that .4% of all cancers in the US may be attributable to CT scans!
- Thyroid Cancer Is Massively Overdiagnosed, Leading to Concrete Harms:
In the past 30 years, there has been a global increase in the implementation of thyroid cancer screening programs which have lead to dramatically increased rates of diagnosis of “thyroid cancer,”mostly due to papillary carcinomas, which are non-fatal. Thyroid cancer mortality rates remained the same throughout this period, a clear indication of overdiagnosis, i.e. the thyroid lesions were non-cancerous insofar as they would have never caused harm if left untreated. The review cited a new study that reviewed the 15-fold increase in thyroid cancer in South Korean, from 1993 to 2011, concluding that, “Overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer is extremely common. The harms associated with this overtreatment include lifelong thyroid replacement, hypoparathyroidism, and vocal cord paralysis.” Learn more by reading my article, “Thyroid Cancer Epidemic Caused by Misinformation, Not Cancer.”Ian: Is it any wonder we as ordinary mortals are resorting to alternative methods? While the efficacy and medical veracity may often be in question, it’s, to my mind, healthy in that whatever the form, people are taking responsibility for future health away from the medical establishment.
Full report here
Author Sayer Ji is founder of Greenmedinfo.com, where this article first appeared. He is on the Board of Governors for the National Health Federation, and Fearless Parent, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Like on Facebook – Follow on Twitter
Turmeric has been used in India for over 5,000 years, which is probably why even today both rural and urban populations have some of the lowest prevalence rates of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the world. A recent study on patients with Alzheimers’ found that less than a gram of turmeric daily, taken for three months, resulted in ‘remarkable improvements.’
Alzheimer’s Disease: A Disturbingly Common Modern Rite of Passage
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), sadly, has become a rite of passage in so-called developed countries. AD is considered the most common form of dementia, which is defined as a serious loss of cognitive function in previously unimpaired persons, beyond what is expected from normal aging.
A 2006 study estimated that 26 million people throughout the world suffer from this condition, and that by 2050, the prevalence will quadruple, by which time 1 in 85 persons worldwide will be afflicted with the disease.
Given the global extent of the problem, interest in safe and effective preventive and therapeutic interventions within the conventional medical and alternative professions alike are growing.
Conventional drug-based approaches amount to declaring chemical war upon the problem – a mistake which can result in serious neurological harm, as evidenced by the fact that this drug class carries an alarmingly high risk for seizures, according to World Health Organization post-marketing surveillance statistics.
What the general public is therefore growing most responsive to, is using time-tested, safe, natural and otherwise more effective therapies that rely on foods, spices and familiar culinary ingredients.
Remarkable Recoveries Reported after Administration of Turmeric
Late last year, a remarkable study was published in the journal Ayu entitled “Effects of turmeric on Alzheimer’s disease with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.” Researchers described three patients with Alzheimer’s disease whose behavioural symptoms were “improved remarkably” as a result of consuming 764 milligrams of turmeric (curcumin 100 mg/day) for 12 weeks. According to the study:
“All three patients exhibited irritability, agitation, anxiety, and apathy. Two patients suffered from urinary incontinence and wonderings. They were each prescribed turmeric powder capsules and started recovering from these symptoms without any adverse reactions in clinical symptoms and laboratory data.”
After only 3 months of treatment, the patients’ symptoms and the burden on their caregivers were significantly decreased.
The report describes the improvements:
“In one case, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score was up five points, from 12/30 to 17/30. In the other two cases, no significant change was seen in the MMSE; however, they came to recognise their family within 1 year treatment. All cases have been taking turmeric for more than 1 year, and re-exacerbation of BPSD was not seen.”
This study illustrates just how powerful a simple natural intervention using a time-tested culinary herb can be.
Given that turmeric has been used medicinally and as a culinary ingredient for over 5,000 years in Indian culture, even attaining the status of a ‘Golden Goddess,’ we should not be surprised at this result. Indeed, epidemiological studies of Indian populations reveal that they have a remarkably lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease relative to Western nations, and this is true for both rural and more “Westernised” urban areas of India.
Could turmeric be a major reason for this?
Turmeric’s Anti-Alzheimer’s Properties.
The GreenMedInfo.com database now contains a broad range of published studies on the value of turmeric, and its primary polyphenol curcumin (which gives it its golden hue), for Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment. While there are 114 studies on Turmeric, 30 of these studies are directly connected to turmeric’s anti-Alzheimer’s disease properties.
Two of these studies are particularly promising, as they reveal that curcumin is capable of enhancing the clearance of the pathological amyloid–beta plaque in Alzheimer’s disease patients, and that in combination with vitamin D3 the neurorestorative process is further enhanced. Additional preclinical research indicates curcumin (and its analogs) has inhibitory and protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease associated β-amyloid proteins.
Other documented Anti-Alzheimer’s mechanisms include:
- Anti-inflammatory: Curcumin has been found to play a protective role against β-amyloid protein associated inflammation.
- Anti-oxidative: Curcumin may reduce damage via antioxidant properties.
- Anti-cytotoxic: Curcumin appears to protect against the cell-damaging effects of β-amyloid proteins.
- Anti-amyloidogenic: Turmeric contains a variety of compounds (curcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin) which may strike to the root pathological cause of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing β-amyloid protein formation.
- Neurorestorative: Curcuminoids appear to rescue long-term potentiation (an indication of functional memory) impaired by amyloid peptide, and may reverse physiological damage by restoring distorted neurites and disrupting existing plaques.
- Metal-chelating properties: Curcumin has a higher binding affinity for iron and copper rather than zinc, which may contribute to its protective effect in Alzheimer’s disease, as iron-mediated damage may play a pathological role.
Ian: here’s the thing: turmeric breaks down to molecular hydrogen, and the benefits of turmeric in this article are identical to what h2 users experience. So the question becomes: Turmeric or H2 water?
Eating kale and other cruciferous vegetables two to three times a week or, even better, four to five times a week, is an easy way to significantly boost your health. Just one cup of kale will flood your body with disease-fighting vitamins K, A, and C, along with respectable amounts of manganese, copper, B vitamins, fiber, calcium, and potassium.
With each serving of kale, you’ll also find more than 45 unique flavonoids, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. In terms of green leafy vegetables, you really can’t go wrong… but kale is definitely worthy of its reputation as “king of veggies.”
And here’s a secret: kale’s flavor gets sweeter after it’s been exposed to a frost, making winter the ideal time to eat it (and it is in season starting mid-winter). When the temperatures drop you might not feel like eating a raw kale salad, but what about a bowl of warm kale soup?
The recipe that follows, from the George Mateljan Foundation, will not only warm you up and boost your nutrition, it’ll give you a nice energy boost, too.
Super Energy Kale Soup
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 cups chicken or bone broth
- 1 medium carrot, diced into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 red potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 cups kale, rinsed, stems removed and chopped very fine
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp dried sage
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop garlic and onions and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their health benefits.
- Heat 1 TBS broth in a medium soup pot.
- Sauté onion in broth over medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.
- Add broth, carrots, and celery and bring to a boil on high heat.
- Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 more minutes.
- Add kale and rest of ingredients and cook another 5 minutes. If you want to simmer for a longer time for extra flavor and richness, you may need to add a little more broth.
Kale May Fight at Least Five Types of Cancer
Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale is a good source of cancer-fighting sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. To date, kale has been found to lower the risk of at least five types of cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate.
The glucosinolates in kale and other cruciferous vegetables break down into products that help protect DNA from damage. As noted by the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Kale’s special mix of cancer-preventing glucosinolates has been the hottest area of research on this cruciferous vegetable.
Kale is an especially rich source of glucosinolates, and once kale is eaten and digested, these glucosinolates can be converted by the body into cancer preventive compounds. Some of this conversion process can also take place in the food itself, prior to consumption.”
While some research suggests raw kale is best for cancer prevention, other studies suggest lightly cooked is best, in part because it improves kale’s ability to bind with bile acids in your digestive tract.
This makes the bile acids easier for your body to excrete, which not only has a beneficial impact on your cholesterol levels, but also on your risk of cancer (bile acids have been associated with an increased risk of cancer). According to one study inNutrition Research:
“Steam cooking significantly improved the in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage compared with previously observed bile acid binding values for these vegetables raw (uncooked).
Inclusion of steam-cooked collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage in our daily diet as health-promoting vegetables should be emphasized.
These green/leafy vegetables, when consumed regularly after steam cooking, would lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, advance human nutrition research, and improve public health.”
Eat Kale to Support Natural Detoxification
Foods that support both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification are key to supporting your body’s daily removal of harmful substances from your body. Phase 1 detoxification is when toxins are broken down into smaller particles, while during your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, the broken down toxins are shuttled out of your system.
If you eat foods that support Phase 1, but not Phase 2, the broken-down toxins may begin to accumulate in your body. But the isothiocyanates (ITCs) in kale help to promote both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification. The George Mateljan Foundation explained:7
“In addition, the unusually large numbers of sulfur compounds in kale have been shown to help support aspects of Phase II detoxification that require the presence of sulfur.
By supporting both aspects of our cellular detox process (Phase I and Phase II), nutrients in kale can give our body an “edge up” in dealing with toxic exposure, whether from our environment or from our food.”
Kale Earns Its Reputation as a Superfood
Kale is one vegetable that lives up to its nutritional hype. It’s loaded with both lutein and zeaxanthin at over 26 mg combined, per serving, for starters. Of all the carotenoids, only zeaxanthin and lutein are found in your retina, which has the highest concentration of fatty acids of any tissue in your body.
This is because your retina is a highly light- and oxygen-rich environment, and it needs a large supply of free radical scavengers to prevent oxidative damage there.
It is theorized that your body concentrates zeaxanthin and lutein in your retina to perform this duty, and consuming these antioxidants may help to ward off eye problems like age-related macular degeneration.
And as far as calcium is concerned, one cup of kale will give you 90 milligrams in a highly bioavailable form. One calcium bioavailability study found that calcium from kale was 25% better absorbed than calcium from milk. What else do you gain when you eat kale?
- Anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent arthritis, heart disease and autoimmune diseases
- Plant-based omega-3 fats for building cell membranes, protecting against heart disease and stroke, and regulating blood clotting
- An impressive number of beneficial flavonoids, including 32 phenolic compounds and three hydroxycinnamic acids to help support healthy cholesterol levels and scavenge free radicals
Choose Organic Kale When You Can
When choosing kale, look for firm, fresh deeply colored leaves with hardy stems. Avoid leaves that are brown or yellow or that contain holes. Kale with smaller leaves tends to be more tender and milder than larger-leaved kale. Choose organic varieties (or grow your own), as kale is frequently sprayed with pesticides, and particularly toxic pesticides at that. One study by the Environmental Working Group detected 51 pesticides on kale, including several they described as “highly toxic.” For best results, store kale in your refrigerator (unwashed) in a plastic storage bag. Remove as much air as you can. Ideally, eat kale as soon as you can, because the longer it sits the more bitter the flavor becomes.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure to increase the length of human telomeres. This increases the number of times cells are able to divide, essentially making the cells many years younger. This not only has useful applications for laboratory work, but may point the way to treating various age-related disorders – or even muscular dystrophy.
Telomeres are the caps at the ends of our chromosomes that protect the DNA code of the genome. Linked to aging and disease, they are 8,000 to 10,000 nucleotides long in young people, but this decreases as we age (a nucleotide is an organic molecule that is a subunit of nucleic acids DNA and RNA). The researchers have found a way to lengthen a telomere by 1,000 nucleotides, which Dr. Helen Brau, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford, says is the equivalent of “many years of human life.”
Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides and at a certain point, when they reach a critical length, the cell can no longer divide and will die. Their limited lifespan means that growing cells in laboratories can be tricky, given there can only be so many cell doublings before they give up the ghost. Telomere function in humans has been linked to many diseases and they have been studied for decades, often in the hope of better understanding or delaying the aging process.
Cells treated with Stanford’s procedure multiply in a similar way to much younger cells, compared with untreated cells of the same age. According to the researchers, skin cells with telomeres lengthened by the procedure were able to divide around 28 more times than untreated cells, while muscle cells divided about three more times. With this new procedure, which uses modified RNA, many more cells can be easily generated for study and drug development or disease modeling.
The “modified messenger” RNA contains the coding sequence for the active component of telomerase, called TERT. Telomerase is the enzyme that rebuilds telomeres and stem cells, including those that give rise eggs and sperm, express the enzyme at a much higher rate than other kinds of cells. Essentially, the RNA is a kind of genetic carrier pigeon in that it carries instructions from the DNA’s genes to the cell’s protein-making areas. Interestingly, in previous work Dr Blau found that the muscle stem cells of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy had far shorter telomeres than those not suffering from the disease.
Although application of this RNA initially causes telomeres to lengthen, within 48 hours they once again begin to shorten as cells divide. This is a good thing, however, as cells that divide endlessly could pose a increased cancer risk if used in humans.
Just three applications of the modified RNA over a short space of days can increase telomere length in muscle and skin cells.
“Our technique is nonimmunogenic,” said postdoctoral scholar John Ramunas. “Existing transient methods of extending telomeres act slowly, whereas our method acts over just a few days to reverse telomere shortening that occurs over more than a decade of normal aging. This suggests that a treatment using our method could be brief and infrequent.”
Researchers are now testing the technique on other types cells and may try to treat accelerated aging disorders or target types of muscle cells in cases of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or even heart disease.
The team’s paper was recently published in FASEB Journal.