Key Mechanisms of Cancer, Aging and Inflammation Revealed

Body.OldAge1A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, lead by Patricia Opresko, Ph.D have discovered crucial new information about telomeres, the end caps of DNA. Telomeres (repeated sequences of DNA) are shortened each time a cell divides, thus becoming smaller with age. When telomeres become too short, they send a signal to the cell to cease dividing permanently – this impairs the ability of tissues to regenerate, contributing to various age-related diseases.

In cancer cells, on the other hand, levels of the enzyme telomerase (which lengthens telomeres) are elevated. This enables them to divide indefinitely. “The new information will be useful in designing new therapies to preserve telomeres in healthy cells and ultimately help combat the effects of inflammation and aging. On the flip side, we hope to develop mechanisms to selectively deplete telomeres in cancer cells to stop them from dividing,” said Dr. Opresko.

Previous studies have shown that oxidative stress accelerates telomere shortening. Oxidative stress is a condition where free radicals build up inside the cell, causing damage. Free radicals can damage the DNA that makes up the telomeres, as well as the DNA building blocks used to extend them. Oxidative stress also plays a role in various other health conditions, including cancer and inflammation. Free radical damage, which is often caused by inflammation in the body, as well as environmental factors, is believed to build up throughout the aging process.

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Appetite and Mortality: the Two Are Closely Connected in the Elderly

Support.Spoon.ForkA simple question about appetite can provide insights into old people’s general health that may help reduce their risk of dying. In a study published in the journal Appetite, Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute, led a team investigating the connection between appetite and mortality.

“Appetite is generally regarded as one of the most important indicators of health,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

The urge to eat is often reduced in the elderly, with many afflicted by the “anorexia of aging.” Chewing difficulties, general deterioration or the side-effects of medication may have an adverse effect on appetite, as may psychological factors such as loneliness or depression. Family circumstances and other environmental factors may also play a role.

“Factors of this kind lead to poor appetite and related poor health,” Professor Wahlqvist said. “We found that elderly people with fair or poor appetites had higher risks of mortality than those with good appetites.

“Poor appetite may be a valuable early indicator of incipient nutritionally related disorders and disease, and of premature mortality.”

Poor appetite does not directly bring about death: it’s the resulting poor diet that causes the harm.

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Source: Monash University. “Appetite and mortality: The two are closely connected in the elderly.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2014.