Buckyballs are tiny spherical molecules made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged in what looks like a soccer ball, or a truncated icosahedron for those shape fans out there. Buckyballs are found naturally in soot and have even been found in deep space. They look promising for the medical field, for the development of a new class of battery, and now they may even be the key to living longer!
Courtesy Bryn C
In a recent study, scientists found that ingesting buckyballs can add years to your life! Well, if you're counting in rat-years. Scientists, in an attempt to better understand the toxicity of ingested buckyballs, gave three groups of rats different things to eat. One group, the control group, was fed a regular rat diet; the second group was fed olive oil; and the third, thought-to-be-ill-fated group, was fed olive oil laced with buckyballs. They found that the control group had a median lifespan of 22 months, the olive oil group had a 26-month lifespan, and the buckyball group had a 42-month lifespan – almost double that of the control group! I’m sure that was quite a surprise for the scientists.
As intriguing as these findings are, don’t go out and eat sooty olive oil…..I don’t think you’ll get the right results. This is just one study, and there’s a lot more research that needs to be done before they start selling Buckyballive oil.
Courtesy Milo Winter
You’re probably familiar with Aesop’s classic fable The Tortoise and the Hare: Mr. Hare challenges Mr. Tortoise to a foot race. Mr. Tortoise accepts. Mr. Hare dashes from the start line, but stops just before the finish line to take a nap. In the meantime, Mr. Tortoise plods along to win the race!! The moral of the story? University of Minnesota professor and Institute on the Environment resident fellow, Dr. Peter Reich’s award-winning take on the fable may surprise you.
Dr. Reich studies leaves. In particular, Dr. Reich has discovered three characteristics of leaves that allow researchers to identify where and how plants live: longevity, productivity, and nitrogen content. Longevity measures how old a leaf lives. Did you know leaves in the tropics live only 5-6 weeks whereas Canadian spruce leaves can live up to 18 years old? Productivity measures how much sugar the leaf makes (yes, leaves make sugar called “glucose,” which nearly every animal uses to fuel their body – that’s why your momma tells you to eat your vegetables!). Finally, nitrogen is like a vitamin for plants: they need it to grow big and strong. How much nitrogen a leaf has is important because it determines how much energy a plant can make.
Courtesy Steven J. Baskauf
What about the moral of The Tortoise and the Hare? Dr. Reich’s research says there are basically two types of leaves: ones that are like Mr. Tortoise and ones like Mr. Hare. Tortoise-like leaves work slowly, but steadily. They’re the marathon runners of the leaf world. Hare-like leaves work really fast! But they can’t keep it up for long. They’re sprinters. Could you run a marathon at your top sprinting speed? Probably not, and neither can leaves be both ultra-fast and long-lasting at the same time. Instead, leaves “tradeoff” speed for endurance. Like human runners, leaves don’t have to be all fast and short-lived or all slow and long-lived; they can fall somewhere inbetween and be medium speed and medium-lived.
So who cares about marathon and sprinting leaves anyway? Lots of people! Dr. Reich just won the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in recognition of this important research. Being able to group the thousands of plants out in the world into a handful of groups is allowing scientists to do incredible research that can be used around the world.
For example, Dr. Reich’s newest research is looking at the different responses of tortoise-leaves versus hare-leaves to changing environments, such as higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air caused by climate change. As each generation of leaves reproduces, new genetic combinations are created. New genetic traits that are helpful to the plant’s survival are passed on to the next generation. The more genetic combinations created, the better chance a species has of “finding” the right traits in a changing environment. This is where Dr. Reich’s interpretation of the moral of The Tortoise and the Hare may surprise you: because hare-leaves have fast, short lives, they reproduce more genetic combinations and are better able to deal with change. Tortoise-leaves will struggle more to adapt. That is, for leaves, slow and steady does not always win the race!
Want to know more?? Dr. Reich recently gave a lecture as part of the Institute on the Environment’s Frontiers on the Environment series. You can hear it here.
Scientists are extending lifespans of mice and primates from 20 to 40 per cent. A protein called S6 Kinase 1 (S6K1), if reduced, resulted in healthier and longer lived organisms.
When University College London (UCL) professor, Dominic Withers, blocked the action of the S6K1 protein in mice he found:
"The mice lived longer and were leaner, more active and generally healthier than the control group. We added 'life to their years' as well as 'years to their lives.
The mice were leaner, had stronger bones, were protected from type 2 diabetes, performed better at motor tasks and demonstrated better senses and cognition, according to the study.
Another molecule related to S6K1 levels known as AMPK was found to regulate energy levels within cells. AMPK levels were effected by drugs called metformin and rapamycin. Recent studies suggest that these two drugs can extend mice's lifespan.
Proteins called sirtuins are thought to help the body survive famines. When an animal is not getting enough food, there is a a survival mechanism that kicks in. Chemicals like AMPK and sirtuins enable an increased efficiency and more effective resistance to disease. Now drugs, rather than famine, have been found that activate sirtuin production.
In mice, sirtuin activators are effective against lung and colon cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, said David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School researcher and co-founder of Sirtris. The drugs reduce inflammation, and if they have the same effects in people, could help combat many diseases that have an inflammatory component, like irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma.
A sirtuin activator has been found in some red wines and is known as resveratrol. Sirtris Pharmaceuticals is formulating resveratrol like compounds and is testing them against various diseases.
SRT-501, the company’s special formulation of resveratrol, is being tested against two cancers, multiple myeloma and colon cancer that has spread to the liver. A chemical mimic of resveratrol, known as SRT-2104, is in a Phase 2 trial for Type 2 diabetes, and in a Phase 1 trial in elderly patients.
Live long and prosper
Eat a doughnut ev’ry day
If you’re a cricket.
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Sci-ku ™ -- haiku in the service of science!
Courtesy Tracy O
Gosh, how long has it been since I’ve pulled out the old “there’s a reason they call economics ‘the dismal science’” trope? Must have been a good 15, maybe 20 minutes. Well, here it is again. How much would you be willing to pay to live a longer, healthier life? In order to answer the question, you have to put a dollar value on your life. How much is ten years’ of healthy life worth? The "fight aging!" blog discusses the situation in cold, hard terms of dollars and cents – a new therapy might add ten healthy years to your life, but if it cost more than those years were worth, would anybody still get it? What if it came down in price, but only the richest people could afford it? And how long would it take before it became affordable to everyone?
Putting dollar value on human life – man, those economist be whack!
Courtesy Chalmers ButterfieldSteve Martin used to do a joke about how to become a millionaire.
“First, get yourself 1 million dollars,” Steve would crack.
That kind of thinking jumped into my mind as I started to read this National Geographic piece on how to live to be 100 years old. Researcher Dan Buettner has done a study of centenarians from some of the planet’s biggest pockets of human longevity and found some pretty simple answers. His research is now out for public consumption in his book The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest.
Among those populations groups that have much higher rates of hitting the big 100 are Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula; areas of Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda, California. Buettner calls each of these areas a Blue Zone for its higher rate of longevity. And while they’re all very different cultures, there were some surprising similarities in the lives of the 100-year-olds that Buettner thinks attributes to their long lives.
Some of those overlapping factors include:
• "We know that people who make it to a hundred tend to be nice," Beuttner says. More specifically, he found that the 100-year-olds tended to have a lot of social dimensions to their lives, regularly seeking out encounters with friends and family. "They … drink from the fountain of life by being likeable and drawing people to them."
• "You look in the blue zone in Okinawa, these people are consistently eating off of small plates," Buettner adds. Along with eating less food each day, many of the 100-plusers had diets high in plants/low in meats.
• "The research is really quite overwhelming in showing the longevity and health benefits in reconnecting with your religion … and investing in your family," Beuttner says.
To summerize his ideas for several TV appearances to promote his book, Buettner compiled this Top 10 list for living to 100.
Courtesy Blue Zone1. De-convenience your home – lose the remote, buy a light garage door and lift it yourself, use a shovel instead of a snowblower
2. Eat nuts – Have a can of nuts around your office or home, eat a handful daily
3. Drink Sardinian wine – Sardinian canonau wine has the world's highest levels of antioxidants. Drink a glass or two a day
4. Play with your children – this is excellent low intensity exercise and will strengthen a family. Both associated with longer life expectancy
5. Grow a narden – This proven stress reducer will put your body through the range of motion and yield fresh vegtables
6. Hour of nower – Downshift daily with a nap, meditation, prayer or a quiet walk - destressing is a proven way to slow aging
7. Eat tofu – Arguably the world's most perfect food, eaten by the world's longest lived women. Contains a plant estrogen that makes skin look younger
8. Get a tan – Doctors are rethinking the notion of slathering yourself with sunscreen. Up to half of Americans are Vitamin D deficient - a condition that can double your chance of dying in any given year. A tan not only looks healthy, it is.
9. Donate your large dinner plates - eat off 9 inch plates as the Okinawans do and reduce calorie consumption at dinner by 20-30%.
10. Write down your personal mission – Know and putting into practice your sense of purpose can give you up to a decade of good life.
Still, there are no guaranteed keys to being able to live a long life, other researchers point out. A myriad of factors impact us over the course of our lives, some we have control over and some that we don’t.
But it seems that Buettner is trying to make us more aware of things that we do have some control over to help us live longer, better lives. So what do you think? Would you want to live past 100? What steps will you try to take to make that happen?
Researchers have created a mutant mouse that lives 30 per cent longer despite eating more and weighing less — all thanks to the loss of a single protein called type 5 adenylyl cyclase (AC5). News@Nature.com
But how far can we push it? 100 years? 120? The Sunday Times of London offers a survey of current research and suggests that, at the rate medical science is advancing, it's possible that some children alive today may live a thousand years or more!