Category: Ageing

The Secret of ‘Rejuvenating’ Blood Transfusions Between Mice

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Researchers have identified an important mediator of youthfulness in mouse muscle, which explains the ‘rejuvenating’ blood transfusions effect between young and old mice. The discovery could also lead to new therapies for age-related muscle loss.

Published in Nature Aging, the study showed that circulating shuttles called extracellular vesicles, or EVs, deliver genetic instructions for the longevity protein known as Klotho to muscle cells. Reduced muscle function and repair in old mice may be driven by aged EVs, which carry fewer instructions than those in young animals.

The findings help further as to understanding why muscle regeneration capacity diminishes with age.

“We’re really excited about this research for a couple of reasons,” said senior author Dr Fabrisia Ambrosio. “In one way, it helps us understand the basic biology of how muscle regeneration works and how it fails to work as we age. Then, taking that information to the next step, we can think about using extracellular vesicles as therapeutics to counteract these age-related defects.”

Decades of research have shown that when old mice are given blood from young mice, youthful features are restored to many cells and tissues. But until now, it was unclear which components of young blood confer these rejuvenating effects.

“Amrita Sahu releaseWe wondered if extracellular vesicles might contribute to muscle regeneration because these couriers travel between cells via the blood and other bodily fluids,” said lead author Dr Amrita Sahu. “Like a message in a bottle, EVs deliver information to target cells.”

Ambrosio and her team collected serum from young mice and injected it into aged mice with injured muscle. Mice that received young serum showed enhanced muscle regeneration and functional recovery compared to those that received a placebo treatment, but the serum’s restorative properties were lost when EVs were removed, indicating that it is these vesicles which deliver the beneficial effects of young blood.

The researchers then found that EVs deliver genetic instructions, or mRNA, encoding the anti-ageing protein Klotho to muscle progenitor cells, important stem cells for muscle regeneration. EVs collected from old mice carried fewer copies of Klotho instructions than those from young mice, causing muscle progenitor cells to produce less of this protein.

With advancing age, muscle doesn’t recover from damage as well because scar tissue is laid down. In earlier work, Ambrosio and her team showed that Klotho is an important regulator of regenerative capacity in muscle progenitor cells and that this protein declines with age.

The new study shows for the first time that age-related shifts in EV cargo contribute to depleted Klotho in aged stem cells, suggesting that EVs could be developed into novel therapies for healing damaged muscle tissue.

“EVs may be beneficial for boosting regenerative capacity of muscle in older individuals and improving functional recovery after an injury,” said Ambrosio. “One of the ideas we’re really excited about is engineering EVs with specific cargoes, so that we can dictate the responses of target cells.”

Beyond muscles, EVs also could help reverse other effects of ageing. Previous work has demonstrated that young blood can boost cognitive performance of aged mice.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Prunes Also Protect Bone Health in Men

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New research published in the Journal of Food and Medicine reports that daily prunes consumption protects bone health in men over 50. This study is the first of its kind to examine the beneficial prune effect on bones in men. 

Some 2 million men are estimated to be battling osteoporosis and another 16.1 million men have osteopenia, or low bone mass. Despite these numbers, bone disease in men is often overlooked.

“We’ve already seen significant evidence that prunes have a positive effect on bone health in women, so it’s particularly exciting to find that prunes can also play a beneficial role in men’s bone health. We look forward to continuing to study the ‘prune effect’ on bone and other health outcomes in men,” said lead researcher Professor Shirin Hooshmand at San Diego State University.

In this study, 57 healthy men aged 50-79 years old were randomised to either consume 100 grams of prunes every day or no prunes for twelve months. After a year, the prune consumers showed significant decreases in biomarkers of bone breakdown, while no changes were observed in the control group. The study authors also reported the men who ate prunes showed improvements in bone geometry indicating greater bone strength.

Historically, research has focused on osteoporosis and bone health in women, already indicating a favorable bone response to prunes specifically among postmenopausal women. Several studies have suggested that eating 50 to 100 grams of prunes everyday could lead to increased bone mass and decreased bone breakdown. Moreover, a recent case study earlier this year reported that total bone mineral density increased in a postmenopausal woman with osteopenia after she consumed 50 grams of prunes daily for 16 months.

“Bone health is not just a concern for women. Men need to think about how to protect their bones as well,” said Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN and consultant with the California Prune Board. “Prunes are a shelf-stable and nutrient-packed food that provide a preventive, proactive, palatable option for men to optimize their bone health.”

While San Diego State University’s newest research is an exciting addition to existing prune-focused literature, more work on the effect of prunes on human bone health is currently underway. An upcoming study from Pennsylvania State University examines how consuming different amounts of prunes affects health outcomes in postmenopausal women over a one-year period. The study not only explores the impact of prunes on bone health, but it will also look at the prune-effect on inflammation and gut health.

Source: PR Newswire

Timely Interventions Could Counteract Sarcopenia

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A new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests that the early stages of sarcopenia, where muscles weaken with age faster than expected, could be counteracted with timely interventions designed to preserve physical and cognitive function and manage chronic conditions. The study’s findings are published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.

Muscle mass and function is lost with ageing. When this decline is more extensive or rapid than expected, it is categorised as sarcopenia, a common condition in the elderly that often lowers quality of life and increases fall and fracture risks.

Researchers examined how different factors such as sex, age, educational level, living arrangement, lifestyle and chronic conditions affected the development of sarcopenia in people aged 60 and above across a 12-year period.

When the study began, almost 10% of the nearly 3200 participants had sarcopenia, 27% had probable sarcopenia and just over 63% no sarcopenia. Measurements such as grip strength, walking speed, speed of rising from a chair five times and calf circumference were used to assess muscle strength and mass and physical performance.

“Perhaps the most interesting result was that after five years, a roughly equal proportion (just over 10 percent) of the individuals with probable sarcopenia had either improved or deteriorated. This suggests that sarcopenia is a dynamic condition that is modifiable especially in the initial stages, which is a hopeful message,” said corresponding author Caterina Trevisan, affiliated researcher at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet.

Physical activity and higher results on cognitive tests improved odds of improvement and lowered mortality risk, while a higher number of chronic conditions, male sex and older age had the opposite correlation. For individuals initially diagnosed with severe sarcopenia, there was little chance of improvement, and many of them (almost 71%) died during the follow-up period.

“Our results support the need of early interventions to preserve physical and cognitive functions and manage chronic conditions in older individuals,” says the study’s last author Anna-Karin Welmer, senior lecturer at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet. “With these tools, we could probably counteract muscle deterioration and the impairment in quality of life this entails. We now need intervention studies to find ways to use these tools to counteract sarcopenia.”

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Older Women Struggle More with Daily Activities

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Older women are more likely to struggle with both regular daily tasks and mobility activities, according to new analysis of longitudinal cohort studies.

However, the researchers say disparities in ability to perform daily tasks have been steadily decreasing as the socioeconomic gap between the sexes has decreased.  

The international study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, uses data from more than 27 000 men and 34 000 women aged 50 to 100, born between 1895 and 1960, to examine sex differences in daily activity and mobility limitations. Researchers at UCL and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in France drew on four large longitudinal studies, covering 14 countries*.

Women were more found to be more likely than men to be limited in their ‘functional capacity’ (both tasks and mobility) as they get older. From age 75, women were also more likely to have three or more mobility issues (such as going up a flight of stairs) or limitations with more complex daily tasks (eg managing money) compared to men who were more likely to have just one or two. At age 85 years, the prevalence of three or more mobility limitations was 10% higher in women than in men.

Lead author, Mikaela Bloomberg, UCL PhD candidate, explained: “Our study of over 60,000 participants born between 1895 and 1960 provides new insights on functional limitations and sex differences.

“We found that women are more likely to be limited than men in carrying out daily tasks from age 70, while we observed women were more likely to be limited in mobility activities from age 50 onward.

“This is an important observation because mobility limitations can precede other more severe limitations and targeting these gaps at middle age could be one way to reduce sex differences in limitations at older ages.”

Historical socioeconomic differences between men and women in areas such as education and entrance to the labour force may partly explain these differences, as women are disproportionately exposed to associated health risks that can lead to disability.

“It appears that gender inequalities in the ability to carry out daily tasks at older age are decreasing over time and this could be explained by the fact that women have better access to education and are more likely to enter the paid labour force in recent generations,” said Bloomberg.

“And although reductions in socioeconomic inequalities may be associated with smaller disparities in simple daily tasks, we did not see the same reductions in sex disparities for mobility after accounting for socioeconomic factors. This might be partly due to sex differences in body composition such as body mass and skeletal muscle index but more research is needed to identify other factors.”

Co-author Dr Séverine Sabia added: “Developing targeted prevention policies to preserve independent living and quality of life for older adults requires an understanding of drivers of sex differences in functional limitations.

“Our study indicates improvements in socioeconomic conditions for women could play an important role in reducing these sex differences. Findings also highlight the importance of early prevention to tackle sex differences in mobility that may trigger sex differences in disability at older age.”

Source: University College London

In Dementia, De-cluttering is of Little Value

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A new study has shown that a clutter-free environment may not help people living with dementia carry out daily tasks.

Researchers studied whether people with dementia were better able to carry out tasks, such as making a cup of tea, at home amidst their normal clutter or in a clutter-free environment. Surprisingly, participants with moderate dementia performed better when surrounded by their usual clutter. But the different environments made no difference to people with mild and severe dementia, who were able to perform at the same level in both settings. The findings were published in Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders.

Prof Eneida Mioshi, from the University of East Anglia. said: “As dementia progresses, people gradually lose their ability to carry out daily tasks due to changes in their cognitive, perceptual and physical abilities. Participation in daily tasks could then be improved by adapting the person’s environment.

“To this end, we wanted to investigate the role of clutter in activity participation, given the potential to use de-cluttering to support people with dementia to continue to be independent.

“Environmental clutter has been defined as the presence of an excessive number of objects on a surface or the presence of items that are not required for a task. It is generally assumed that a person with dementia will be better-able to carry out daily tasks when their home space is tidy and clutter free. However there has been very little research to really test this hypothesis.

“We wanted to see whether clutter was negatively affecting people with dementia. So we studied how people at different stages of dementia coped with carrying out daily tasks at home, surrounded by their usual clutter, compared to in a clutter-free setting – a specially designed home research lab.”

Occupational therapist and PhD student Julieta Camino carried out the study with 65 participants. They were grouped into those with mild, moderate and severe dementia, and were asked to carry out daily tasks including making a cup of tea and making a simple meal, both at their own home and at UEA’s specially designed NEAT research bungalow, a fully furnished research facility that feels just like a domestic bungalow. 

The researchers evaluated performance of activities in both settings, and also measured the amount of clutter in the participants’ homes. Meanwhile the NEAT home setting was completely clutter free.

Source: University of East Anglia

Elderly with Mild Dementia Benefit from Smartphone Reminder Apps

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Results from a new study show that older adults with mild dementia can learn to use smartphone memory aids to help them remember to complete everyday tasks that are important to their quality of life.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, recruited 52 older adults with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia, and were coached on how to use a digital voice recorder app or a reminder app.

After a four-week intervention, participants reported improvements in performing daily intentions. They also performed relatively well when the investigators assigned them with tasks, with performance levels favouring the reminder app in week 1, but by week 4 changing to favour the digital voice recorder app. Greater usage of the digital recorder or reminder apps was associated with better memory and greater improvements in activities of daily living.

The researchers note that smartphone aids are free and widely available, and they should be shared with patients and caregivers to help support quality of life and independent functioning.

“There is this pervasive notion that older adults dislike technology, but we found that participants enjoyed learning to use smartphone memory apps and were able to improve their daily prospective memory performance,” said lead author Michael K. Scullin, PhD, of Baylor University. “Technology companies have an opportunity to improve broad adoption of smartphone memory aids in older adults and persons with mild stages of Alzheimer’s disease by tailoring the interface and user experience of their reminder apps to this demographic and by incorporating age diversity into their marketing campaigns. With the help of smart technology companies, we can make great headway on improving functioning and quality of life for families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”

Source: Wiley

Previously Infected Older People Have More COVID Antibodies

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In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found that older people previously infected with COVID, when vaccinated, had higher antibody levels than previously infected individuals. These antibodies were also effective against the Delta variant, which wasn’t present in Canada when the samples were taken  in 2020.

Joelle Pelletier and Jean-François Masson, both professors in Université de Montréal’s Department of Chemistry, wanted to find out whether natural infection or vaccination led to more protective antibodies being generated. The focussed on an understudied group: people who have been infected but not hospitalised by SARS-CoV-2.

Consequently, 32 non-hospitalised COVID positive adults were recruited 14 to 21 days after being diagnosed through PCR testing. This was in 2020, before the Beta, Delta and Gamma variants emerged.

“Everyone who had been infected produced antibodies, but older people produced more than adults under 50 years of age,” said Prof Masson. “In addition, antibodies were still present in their bloodstream 16 weeks after their diagnosis.”

Antibodies produced after an infection by the original, “native” strain of the virus also reacted to SARS-CoV-2 variants that emerged in subsequent waves, namely Beta (South Africa), Delta (India) and Gamma (Brazil), but to a lesser extent: a reduction of 30 to 50%.

“But the result that surprised us the most was that antibodies produced by naturally infected individuals 50 and older provided a greater degree of protection than adults below 50, ” said Prof Pelletier.

“This was determined by measuring the antibodies’ capacity to inhibit the interaction of the Delta variant’s spike protein with the ACE-2 receptor in human cells, which is how we become infected,” he added. “We didn’t observe the same phenomenon with the other variants.”

When someone who has had a mild case of COVID is vaccinated, the antibody level in their blood doubles compared to an unvaccinated person who has been infected by the virus. Their antibodies are also better able to prevent spike-ACE-2 interaction.

“But what’s even more interesting,” said Prof Masson, “is that we have samples from an individual younger than 49 whose infection didn’t produce antibodies inhibiting spike-ACE-2 interaction, unlike vaccination. This suggests that vaccination increases protection against the Delta variant among people previously infected by the native strain.”

Both scientists believe more research should be conducted to determine the best combination for maintaining the most effective level of antibodies reactive to all variants of the virus.

Source: University of Montreal

No Risk of Developing Knee Osteoarthritis From Exercise

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In an analysis of six global studies, investigators found no link between the amount and duration of physical activity with individuals’ risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.

The analysis, which is published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, included six global community-based studies which had a combined total of 5065 participants with and without knee osteoarthritis, who were followed for five to 12 years.
“Knowing that the amount of physical activity and time spent doing it is not associated with the development of knee osteoarthritis is important evidence for both clinicians and the public who may need to consider this when prescribing physical activity for health,” explained co–lead author Thomas Perry, BSc, PhD, at the University of Oxford.

As a next step, it will be important to understand the role of injury and specific types of activity within this association, noted co–lead author Lucy S. Gates, PhD, University of Southampton, and co–senior author Maria Sanchez-Santos, University of Oxford.

Source: Wiley

Why Does Arthritis Flare Up in the Same Place?

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A new study has revealed why arthritis has a tendency to flare up in the same location instead of around the body.

When joints flare up in people with rheumatoid arthritis and related diseases, the joints involved are often the same as those previously affected. For example, if arthritis started in the right knee, it is much more likely to flare there than in the left knee, even if the arthritis had been in remission for years. Because of this, each patient develops a highly individual disease pattern, though why this is so has remained unclear.

“Overwhelmingly, flares occur in a previously involved joint,” said Peter Nigrovic, MD, chief of the division of immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Something in that joint seems to remember, ‘this is the joint that flared before.’”

A new study, co-led by Dr Nigrovic and published in Cell Reports, shows where that memory is housed: in a type of immune cell called a tissue-resident memory T cell. Specifically, these T cells reside in the synovium, the tissue that lines the inside of the capsule surrounding the joint.
“We showed that these T cells anchor themselves in the joints and stick around indefinitely after the flare is over, waiting for another trigger,” said Dr Nigrovic. “If you delete these cells, arthritis flares stop.”

The team demonstrated this phenomenon in three separate mouse models of inflammatory arthritis. Two models used chemical triggers to cause joint inflammation, and the third had a protein knocked out that blocks the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1. Once activated, resident memory T cells in the joints rallied other immune cells, leading to an arthritis flares limited to specific joints. Elimination of these T cells prevented further flares from occurring.

“Right now, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has to continue lifelong; although we can successfully suppress disease activity in many patients, there is no cure,” said Dr Nigrovic. “We think our findings may open up new therapeutic avenues.”

Dr Nigrovic also believes the findings apply to other types of autoimmune arthritis, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Dermatology provided a cue for the researchers: tissue-resident memory T cells were originally found in skin, where a ‘memory’ pattern is well known to dermatologists. In psoriasis, for example, patients get recurrent plaques in the same places. The same often holds true in cutaneous hypersensitivity reactions, such as reactions to nickel in jewelry or wristwatches. “A person reacting to nickel through a belt buckle may also develop a rash on their wrist, where they wore a nickel-containing watch as a child,” observed Dr Nigrovic.

Source: EurekAlert!

Inflammatory Markers Found in Socially Isolated Older Adults

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New research from the US has found that older adults who experienced social isolation had higher blood levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, two markers of inflammation that can have long-term negative impacts for the health of individuals as they age.

Social isolation is a risk factor for morbidity and mortality comparable to well-established risk factors including smoking, hypertension, and a sedentary lifestyle. The specific biological mechanisms that connect social isolation to morbidity and mortality remain unclear. 

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, used data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), which included a nationally representative sample of 4648 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older. The researchers defined social isolation with a multi-domained typology that considers living arrangement, core discussion network, religious attendance, and social participation
The authors noted that clinical and social interventions that address social isolation among older adults may influence biological processes such as inflammation, as well as their potentially negative effects.

Credit: JAGS

“Our findings demonstrate an important association between social isolation and biological processes. This work is a step in the journey to disentangle the mechanisms by which social isolation leads to higher levels of morbidity and mortality,” said lead author Thomas K.M. Cudjoe, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “My hope is that investigators incorporate objective measures of social isolation and biological markers in future longitudinal studies so that we might continue to advance our understanding of these complex biopsychosocial interactions.”

Source: Wiley