Uncontrolled Asthma Linked to Air Pollution Exposure

People with asthma exposed to higher levels of ozone and particulate matter are much more likely to have poorer asthma control, researchers reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Long-term ozone exposure raises an asthma patient’s likelihood to have uncontrolled asthma by 69%, while long-term exposure to particulate matter raises the risk by 35%, the authors added.

Even after taking into account known risk factors linked to poorly controlled asthma, such as obesity, inhaled corticosteroid use, and smoking, the findings still held true.

The researchers explained that prior studies had established a link between air pollution and worsening respiratory symptoms, more hospitalizations and increased use of prescription drugs. However, none had examined what the impact of long-term air pollution might be on asthma control.

The investigators gathered data from the follow-up to the Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA), involving 501 adult participants in five French cities, all with active asthma. They had filled in a questionnaire on respiratory health between 2003 and 2007.

Using data from the Institut Francais de l’Environnement (French Institute of the Environment), they calculated levels of O3 (ozone), NO2 (nitrous oxide) and PM10 (particulate matter) that each participant had been exposed to where they lived.

They measured asthma control according to data gathered on symptoms, asthma attacks, and lung function or FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second).

Data on pollutant levels were available for 481 patients. 44% of them had well-controlled asthma, 29% had partially controlled asthma, but 27% had poorly controlled asthma.

Calculated average levels of pollutants during the study period were:

Nitrous oxide – were 32 ug/m3
Ozone – 46 ug/m3
Particulate matter – 21 ug/m3

Both ozone and particulate matter levels were strongly linked to poorer asthma control. Long-term ozone exposure increased poor asthma control risk by 69%, and by 35% for particulate matter long-term exposure.

Females and older individuals of both sexes were more likely to experience poorly controlled asthma.

The authors concluded:

“Our results indicate that both ambient O3 and PM10 concentrations jeopardise asthma control in adults. The results are robust.”

Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Unique Study Into Health And Wellbeing Of Older People

A unique Network studying the health and wellbeing of older people is bringing together health, social science and mathematics experts in a revolutionary project which will help shape the long-term provision of health and social care services across the UK and ultimately benefit older people.

The Collaborative Development Network is being pioneered by Northumbria University and will build on a 25 year study into the wellbeing of a group of pensioners from the North East who are now in their 80s.

It has been awarded ВЈ50,000 by the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Cross-Council initiative and is designed to build research capacity and capability by establishing multi-disciplinary partnerships focused on some of the major issues affecting older people.

Professor Charlotte Clarke, Associate Dean of the School of Health, Community and Education Studies at Northumbria says: “Society today is often guilty of focusing on older people as a problem instead of concentrating on what people can offer to society and how to develop ways of managing.

“This exciting new Network is taking a completely different approach by identifying those aspects of the social, psychological and physical environment that enable an older person to use their own skills and abilities to the best effect.”

Professor Clarke is working with a multi-disciplinary team on the project and believes that by taking a holistic approach to the research and drawing on experts, not usually associated with healthcare, the outcome will provide huge benefits to older people in the future.

She says: “There are important policy issues to be addressed through this Network with the potential for health and social care resources to be directed in such a way that they really maximise what individuals have to offer. We believe the Network will both inform and support individuals, policy makers and healthcare professionals to ensure the UK is able to provide the very best support for older people in the future.”

The Collaborative Development Network will involve health, social science, psychology and mathematics experts from Northumbria and academics from the Universities of Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester, as well as international advisors from Australia and South Africa.

Professor Clarke says: “Research into ageing has traditionally been done in discreet areas, looking at either psychological issues, community influences or health related issues. We believe this is the first study of its type, drawing together social, health and economic factors, combining these with very individual and personal ability factors and then using mathematical modelling techniques to enable us to accurately plan for the future.”

The Network will build on three key platforms including work by the British Academy International Research Network on risk and ageing, the UKCRC Centre for Translational Research in Public Health and comprehensive data collated by North East Age Research, from a cohort of older people – as part of a study which commenced over 25 years ago.

Dr Lynn McInnes is the co-ordinator of the 25 year study. She says: “The original research actually started back in the 1980s when we wanted to examine what happens to people’s cognitive abilities as they get older. We discovered that age has little bearing on cognitive performance and there’s great variability amongst older people. However, we also discovered that older people felt good cognitive performance helped enhance their quality of life and that having better cognitive abilities was intrinsically linked to better health in general.

“Now we have the opportunity to feed those findings into an important piece of research which will draw on a wide range of expertise to help shape the future provision of services for older people right across the country.”

The Medical Research Council, who leads Lifelong health and Wellbeing on behalf of the Research Councils, says: “One of the key priorities for this Cross-Council initiative is to fund networks of multi-disciplinary researchers to come together to tackle major issues facing an ageing society. We are delighted to be supporting this team of researchers who are working towards making a difference to the health and wellbeing of the population in later life.”

Source: Northumbria University

Inovio Biomedical H1N1 Influenza DNA Vaccines Demonstrate 100% Responses Against Swine Flu In Vaccinated Pigs

Inovio Biomedical Corporation (NYSE Amex:INO), a leader in DNA vaccine design, development and delivery, announced today that the company’s SynCon™ H1N1 influenza DNA vaccines achieved protective antibody responses against H1N1 swine influenza virus (A/Swine/Iowa/35233/1999) in 100% of pigs immunized with a two-dose vaccine regimen.

Dr. Niranjan Sardesai, Senior VP, Research & Development, presented the data at the Annual Conference of DNA Vaccines in Asia 2009 held in Beijing, China, July 9-10, 2009, in a presentation entitled, “Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza DNA Vaccines Delivered Via Electroporation.”

In this study, scientists immunized pigs with consensus H1N1 influenza DNA vaccine candidates on day 0, day 14, and day 28. Sera collected on day 28 and day 42, after two or three doses of vaccine, respectively, showed hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers above the protection threshold in 100% of the vaccinated animals against a swine H1N1 virus previously isolated from pigs. On-going additional animal studies are testing the ability of Inovio’s SynCon™ human H1N1 and swine H1N1 based vaccines to cross-protect from currently circulating human and swine H1N1 viruses as well as the new influenza A/H1N1 of swine origin.

In a similar collaborative study with scientists from the National Microbiology Laboratory of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Pennsylvania, Inovio previously demonstrated that mice immunized with Inovio’s SynCon™ H1N1 DNA vaccine provided 100% protection in a lethal challenge study against an unmatched H1N1 virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed over 40 million people worldwide.

Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s CEO, said, “Our innovative SynCon™ technology has the potential to protect people from influenza strains not exactly like the ones that make up the existing vaccines. This is a clear advantage for our universal flu program over conventional influenza vaccines. We are pleased to report our H1N1 preclinical results using pigs, a more natural model for the current influenza pandemic. We look forward to advancing our SynCon™ universal flu vaccine program toward clinical investigation.”

Inovio’s novel SynCon™ technology enables the company to design DNA-based vaccines with the potential to protect against unmatched sub-types and strains of pathogens. Inovio has created SynCon™ DNA vaccines based on influenza HA, NA, and NP proteins that are common to strains H1N1, H2N2, H3N2, and H5N1, which make up the majority of seasonal and pandemic influenza. Using a designer approach, Inovio can formulate these DNA plasmids together to rapidly develop a universal influenza vaccine potentially targeting all these strains. The resulting vaccine could target seasonal as well as pandemic-potential influenza strains such as avian influenza and swine flu, which has already been designated pandemic status. Significantly, being based on a common set of antigens derived from a broad range of flu strains, such a universal vaccine would have the potential to provide greater protection against evolving, unmatched flu strains.

Inovio Biomedical Corporation

Highly Pathogenic Bird Flu Case Confirmed In South Korea

South Korean authorities have just confirmed that breeding chickens in Chonan, 55 miles south of the capital Seoul, were infected with the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus strain. This is the fifth outbreak in the country during the last three months.

Preparations are underway to cull over one-quarter of a million birds within half-a-kilometer of the farm, say officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. Measures to stem the spread of the virus also include a total restriction in the movement of birds and eggs within a 10 kilometer radius of the infected area.

Experts were surprised at this latest outbreak. Recently there had been an outbreak at Iksan, to the south of Chonan, where tens of thousands of birds had been culled. Emergency measures at Iksan had been thoroughly carried out. During the last three years over 1.2 million heads of poultry have been culled in South Korea.

Lab tests have revealed a virulent strain of the bird flu virus in bird droppings found at a reservoir about 13 miles from the infected farm in Chonan. Further tests will tell us whether it is the virulent H5N1 strain. If so, we could be looking at migratory birds as the source of the H5N1 bird flu spread.

– Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Rep. of Korea (in English)
– Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Rep. of Korea (in Korean)

AccuQuote, A Leading Provider Of Term Life Insurance Quotes, Provides Tips For Helping Smokers Find Affordable Term Life Insurance

AccuQuote, a leader in providing term life insurance quotes to people across the United States, recommends several tips to help smokers find affordable term life insurance.

“Whether you smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, or have an occasional cigar or pipe, the life insurance quotes you’ll most likely see are going to be smoker rates which are often, as much as triple (or more) the price of non-tobacco users,” says Byron Udell, founder and CEO of AccuQuote.

For example, a 40-year-old male cigarette smoker qualifying for term life insurance rates on a policy with a face value of $500,000 would be quoted a minimum of $2,480 for a 30-year level term life policy. If that same person qualified for the best available non-smoker rates he would only pay $620 for the same policy. That’s a savings of $1,860 per year and $55,800 over the length of the policy!

“If you’ve been putting off shopping for life insurance because you’re a smoker, or think you are paying exorbitant premiums because of your habit, it’s time to start shopping around. Many people are overpaying for their term life insurance because they don’t realize how to shop for it,” says Udell.

AccuQuote suggests the following tips for finding a life insurance company that will offer some tobacco users more favorable rates – sometimes, even non-smoker rates:

- Shop around – Some companies require a negative test for nicotine in order to qualify for non-smoker term life insurance rates. While at others, testing positive for nicotine is acceptable. As a result, an occasional cigar smoker or tobacco chewer could end up paying a lot more than they have to if they buy their term life insurance from the “wrong” company.

- Deal with a multi-carrier broker – Only a brokerage firm that has access to a broad range of carriers will likely know which life insurance company might offer the most favorable term life insurance rates to a given person, based on their individual profile.

- Do NOT lie on your application – Because premiums offered to those who use tobacco use are often triple those of people who don’t smoke, some people are tempted to lie to get a better term life insurance rate, but doing so could put the existence of the protection at risk.

Also Udell says, “If you’re an ex-smoker, don’t think you’ll automatically qualify for non-smoker rates. Life insurance companies usually require that you be smoke-free for at least one year; however some require longer periods. Bottom line: Don’t delay the process. Get the term life insurance coverage you need today. If you quit down the road, you can always reapply for lower rates later, assuming you’re still healthy!”

About AccuQuote

AccuQuote helps consumers find the best values in term life insurance by combining instant online quotes with the personal service of unbiased life insurance professionals that can help answer questions, identify important issues, and make meaningful recommendations. The company offers consumers an extensive selection of life insurance options, including term life, whole life, and universal life, as well as selected annuities. The website has many handy insurance tools, including a life insurance needs calculator to help you figure out how much to buy, a glossary that explains industry terminology, a collection of articles that cover the basics about life insurance, and a blog which answer many questions about life insurance. For additional information or to get quotes for cheap term life insurance, please call 1-888-314-4455.


Surgeons to test public opinion on complete facial transplants

Public squeamishness over the limits of modern surgery are to be tested next week when specialists propose the transplant of a whole human face from a dead to a living person.

At least five teams around the world are making preparations for the transplant, which would cross ethical and technical frontiers. But before such an operation, doctors have to convince a sceptical public that its potential benefits outweigh the psychological, emotional and ethical challenges the surgery presents.

In Britain, 10 people with faces disfigured by disease or an accident have approached the consultant plastic surgeon Peter Butler, after he published preliminary research last year on face transplants.

Mr Butler, who divides his time between the Royal Free Hospital, London, and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said advances in understanding rejection and perfection of the skills necessary made the surgery technically possible, if ethical and psychological objections could be overcome. ‘These need to be ironed out before we can go ahead,’ he said yesterday.

A report by a working party of the Royal College of Surgeons, to be published next week, will examine the key issues raised by the proposed surgery. Its publication on 19 November is timed to coincide with an inaugural debate at the Science Museum’s new Dana Centre on face transplants.

The debate will be addressed by John Barker, leader of plastic surgery research at the University of Louisville, who is expected to claim that transplanting a whole face would be simpler, and give better cosmetic results, than the current method of using tissue from other parts of a person’s body, which can involve up to 100 separate operations.

Mr Butler acknowledged that the issue of individual facial identity was the main reason for opposition to face transplants, but saidit was unlikely to be a problem for the most basic kind of transplant, which involved taking the skin, fatty tissue and blood supply.

Most of a person’s facial appearance is determined by the cranio-facial skull – the underlying bone structure – which would not be transplanted. The transplant would involve attaching a different ‘skin envelope’ over the bone and muscle.

A bigger issue is whether taking lifelong anti-rejection drugs could be justified. The skin provokes a stronger immunological reaction than any other organ in the body and thus requires heavier doses of immunosuppressant drugs. But they have side-effects including an increased risk of diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure, as well as a continuing threat of rejection.

The American team led by John Barker is likely to be the first to transplant a face if approval is granted, but other teams are also working on the challenge. In France, a team led by Francois Petit, a plastic surgeon who operates near Paris, applied for ethical approval a year ago.

The Royal College of Surgeons said it had set up its working party, chaired by Sir Peter Morris, the college’s president, after protests from the charity Changing Faces, led by Dr James Partridge, which campaigns for an end to discrimination against people with disfigurements.

Dr Partridge, whose face was destroyed in a car fire when he was 18, called on the college to impose a moratorium on the research while a debate on the ethics was held.

Statins Reduce Loss Of Function, Keeping Old Lungs Young-Even In Smokers

Statins are known to be good for lowering cholesterol and maybe even fighting dementia, and now they have another reported benefit: they appear to slow decline in lung function in the elderly- even in those who smoke. According to researchers in Boston, it may be statins’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help achieve this effect.

Their findings were published in the second issue for October in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“We hypothesized that statins would have a protective effect on decline in lung function,” wrote Dr. Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, a lead researcher on the study, the first to examine the relationships between statins and lung function decline.

“The link between lung function and mortality and the reduced levels of lung function in the elderly indicates the importance of a possibility of reducing the rate of decline,” wrote Dr. Schwartz.

To investigate whether statins had an effect of loss of lung function, the researchers used data from the ongoing and longitudinal Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, which began in 1963. They analyzed 803 subjects who had had their lung function measured at least twice between January 1995 and June 2005. Both forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) were measured. The study subjects also completed questionnaires on pulmonary disorders, smoking and medication usage.

The investigators found that subjects taking statins experienced a markedly slower annual decline in lung function. In FEV1, statin users lost 10.9 ml on average, whereas nonusers lost an average of 23.9 ml each year-more than twice that of the statin group. Similarly, statin users lost an average of 14 ml a year in FVC, whereas nonusers lost an average of 36.2 ml.

To determine whether smoking status modified that effect, the researchers also divided their subjects into four smoking groups: never-smokers, long-ago quitters, recent quitters and current smokers. “Within each smoking group, those not taking statins were estimated to experience faster declines in FEV1 and FVC than those taking statins,” wrote Dr. Schwartz, noting that the size of the effect varied a bit with smoking status.

“Our results suggest (weakly) that long-term quitters and recent quitters may be able to benefit more from statin use than other groups,” Dr. Schwartz wrote.

But because of overlap between groups and the lack of randomization and controls in this study, the researchers point out that further data is needed before any definitive conclusions are drawn. Their findings do, however, support the hypothesis that statins reduce the annual loss of lung function that occurs with age.

The researchers suggest that the observed effect may be attributable to statins’ ability to reduce inflammation and smoking-induced injury in the lung, as well as their capacity to reduce serum levels of C-reactive protein, which relates to systemic inflammation, and to protect against oxidative damage.

The research adds to a growing body of knowledge indicating the positive effects of statin use beyond its cholesterol lowering properties.

This news brief comes from the American Thoracic Society’s peer-reviewed journal, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine – ajrccm.atsjournals.

Founded in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is the world’s leading medical association dedicated to advancing pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The Society has more than 18,000 members who prevent and fight respiratory disease around the globe, through research, education, patient care and advocacy.


New Efforts Needed To Promote Safer Sex To Baby Boomers, Opinion Piece Says

Many baby boomers “are not heeding their own warnings” they give their teenage children about condom use and safer sex, USA Today contributor Joyce King writes in an opinion piece. A national survey of sexual behavior published last month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine debunks “the ‘teens gone wild’ stereotypical thinking,” showing that the “statistics that give pause are unmarried adults,” King continues.

The Indiana University survey found that 91% of men older than age 50 do not use condoms during sex with a date or acquaintance. In addition, some men and women older than age 50 fail to use condoms even when they know they or their partner had a sexually transmitted infection. “By comparison, 80% of sexually active teen boys and 69% of teen girls used condoms during their most recent encounters,” King writes.

Debra Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU, noted that baby boomers did not come of age at a time when there were strong messages about safe sex. “Public campaigns on condom use and safe sex should begin to target older folks,” King says, adding that Herbenick recommends that health care providers ask patients about their sexual lives.

Other experts say the “onus for increased condom use, as with birth control in the past, may fall disproportionately to women,” according to King. “In other words, women may be in the best position to encourage their male partners to use condoms,” she writes (King, USA Today, 11/19).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women’s Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women’s Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

© 2010 National Partnership for Women & Families. All rights reserved.

More Obese Blacks Than Hispanics And Whites In The US

The incidence of obesity among US blacks is higher than among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, reports the Centers for Disease Control and
Development (CDC).

The report was prepared by Dr Liping Pan from the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, and colleagues and appears in the July
17 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The proportion of the American population that is now obese is twice what it was 30 years ago, said the CDC, and when you look inside that alarming
trend you find that certain ethnic and racial groups have been disproportionately affected.

Using data from an ongoing telephone survey of US adults called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the CDC found that from
2006 to 2008, the rate of obesity among adult non-Hispanic blacks was 35.7 per cent. The next highest group was Hispanic adults, at 28.7 per cent,
and non-Hispanic whites was 23.7 per cent.

The overall rate of obesity was estimated at 25.6 per cent and found to be consistently higher in women than in men.

These figures are somewhat under the prevalence rates showin in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
which showed that among non-Hispanic blacks obesity prevalence was 45 per cent, followed by 36.8 per cent among Mexican-Americans and 30.6 per
cent among non-Hispaic whites.

An editorial comment by the CDC on the new report suggests that the BRFSS derived figures are probably an under-estimate because they are based
on self-reports done by phone, whereas the NHANES data comes from height and weight measurements taken by survey staff. However, while within
the groups the prevalance rates may differ between the two data-sets, they point out the same disparity among the groups: non-Hispanic blacks have the
greatest prevalence of obesity, followed by Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

The report also found large regional disparities. Among the four US census regions, the South had the greatest prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic blacks (36.9 per cent), followed by the Midwest (36.3 per cent), the West (33.1 per cent) and the Northeast (31.7 per cent).

For whites, the greatest prevalence of obesity was in the Midwest (25.4 per cent), followed by the South (24.4 per cent), then the Northeast (22.6 per
cent) and lastly the West (21.0 per cent).

For Hispanics, the highest prevalence was in the Midwest (29.6 per cent), followed by the South (29.2 per cent), then the West (29.0 per cent) and
lastly the Northeast (26.6 per cent).

The state with the lowest obesity rate among non-Hispanic blacks was New Hampshire (23. 0 per cent). However, there were 5 states with 40 per cent
or more obesity rates among non-Hispanic blacks: Alabama, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oregon.

The state with the lowest obesity rate among Hispanics was Maryland (21.0 per cent), while Tennessee had the highest (36.7 per cent).

And the state with the lowest obesity rate among non-Hispanic whites was DC (9.0 per cent), while the highest was West Virginia (30.2 per cent).
However, there were also 5 states with obesity rates under 20 per cent for this group: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New

The CDC says that while the reasons for the diparity among the ethnic/racial groups are complex and unclear, it proposes, three, for which some
research evidence exists:

Firstly, racial/ethnic groups have different lifestyle behaviours that affect weight gain.
For instance, blacks and Hispanics are less likely to exercise in their leisure time than Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.
Secondly, these groups also differ in their attitude to body weight: they have different cultural norms.
For example, one study suggests that non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women are happier with their body size than non-Hispanic white
women (people who are less satisfied with their body size are more likely to try and lose weight).
And thirdly, there are socio-economic disparities: for instance in terms of access to healthy food and safe places to exercise.
There is evidence that neighbourhoods with large minority populations, and especially where these are on low income, have fewer shops where the
healthy foods are the same price or cheaper than the energy dense foods.
There is also evidence to support the idea that minority and low income groups live in neighbourhoods where there is less access to exercise locations, and where traffic and fear for personal
safety stops also them taking up walking.

The editorial pointed out that the report also excluded people without a landline phone, which could lead to over or under estimates. Some research
suggests that that adults living in wireless-only homes tend to be younger, have lower incomes, and be members of minority groups.

While citing a number of initiatives that are already in place, the CDC recommends that:

“To reduce disparities among populations in the prevalence of obesity, an effective public health response is needed that includes surveillance, policies, programs, and supportive environments achieved through the efforts of government, communities, workplaces, schools, families, and individuals.”

“Differences in Prevalence of Obesity Among Black, White, and Hispanic Adults — United States, 2006–2008.”
L Pan, DA Galuska, B Sherry, AS Hunter, GE Rutledge, WH Dietz, Div of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity; LS Balluz, Div of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.
MMWR, 58(27);740-744, 17 July 2009.

Source: CDC.

: Catharine Paddock, PhD

New Findings May Hold The Key To Where The Gene Activity Of Youth Goes

New evidence may explain why it is that we lose not only our youthful looks, but also our youthful pattern of gene activity with age. A report in the November 26th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, reveals that a protein perhaps best known for its role in the life-extending benefits of a low-calorie diet also maintains the stability of the mammalian genome – the complete set of genetic instructions “written” in DNA.

The researchers found in studies of mammalian stem cells that the protein SIRT1 controls the packaging of DNA into chromatin, thereby setting the youthful pattern of gene activity by keeping select genes switched off. In response to DNA damage, those SIRT1 proteins leave their posts to go off and assist in the necessary repairs. That change in SIRT1′s job description leads to shifts in gene activity that parallel those seen in the aging mouse brain, they show. They suspect similar changes would also be found in other body tissues as well.

“The critical protein controls both which genes are off and on as well as DNA repair; it’s used for both processes, and that’s the catch,” said David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School. “As cells accumulate DNA damage, the protein can’t do both jobs sufficiently.” Once SIRT1 loses control, gene activity goes haywire, a state of affairs that leads to symptoms associated with aging.

Sinclair’s team also found what they consider to be good evidence that the aging process can be slowed. Mice with an excess of SIRT1 had an improved ability to repair DNA and prevent those unwanted changes in gene expression. The hope is that those improvements could be reproduced with a drug that stimulates SIRT1, they said.

Indeed, the famous red wine ingredient known as resveratrol offers benefits through its effects on SIRT1, as do several more targeted drugs at some stage of development or testing. The new findings offer an explanation for how those life-promoting chemicals may be working. The ultimate test, Sinclair said, will be whether such drugs can indeed maintain a youthful gene profile.

While scientists had long known that gene activity changes with age, the driving force behind those changes remained mysterious, Sinclair said. Many had also proposed a connection between DNA damage and aging. After all, it’s common knowledge that UV damage to the skin leaves it looking older. But again, he said, no one had really put their finger on just what the relationship is, or at least they hadn’t in mammals.

In fact, scientists had discovered some years ago that Sir2, the yeast equivalent of SIRT1, stabilizes the genome. With age or in response to a DNA break, however, the Sir2 complex takes off for the damaged sites, activating genes that leave the yeast sterile, a characteristic associated with aging.

The new results show that the yeast aging process may be remarkably relevant to mammals. “If you step back and think, it’s pretty striking,” Sinclair said. “Something as simple as yeast can tell us about the mechanism of aging in mammals.”


The researchers include Philipp Oberdoerffer, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Shaday Michan, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Michael McVay, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Raul Mostoslavsky, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA; James Vann, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; Sang-Kyu Park, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; Andrea Hartlerode, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA; Judith Stegmuller, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Angela Hafner, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Patrick Loerch, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Sarah M. Wright, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME; Kevin D. Mills, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME; Azad Bonni, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Bruce A. Yankner, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Ralph Scully, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA; Tomas A. Prolla, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; Frederick W. Alt, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Children’s Hospital, Immune Disease Institute, and Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; and David A. Sinclair, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Source: Cathleen Genova

Cell Press