Category Archives: telomeres

Amish have internal ‘fountain of youth’ – Study

The first genetic mutation that appears to protect against multiple aspects of biological aging in humans has been discovered in an extended family of Old Order Amish living in the vicinity of Berne, Indiana, report Northwestern Medicine scientists.

An experimental “longevity” drug that recreates the effect of the mutation is now being tested in human trials to see if it provides protection against some aging-related illnesses.

Indiana Amish kindred (immediate family and relatives) with the mutation live more than 10 percent longer and have 10 percent longer telomeres (a protective cap at the end of our chromosomes that is a biological marker of aging) compared to Amish kindred members who don’t have the mutation, reports the new Northwestern study. (my emphasis)

Amish with this mutation also have significantly less diabetes and lower fasting insulin levels. A composite measure that reflects vascular age also is lower — indicative of retained flexibility in blood vessels in the carriers of the mutation — than those who don’t have the mutation, the research also found.

The paper was published Nov. 15 in the journal Science Advances.

These Amish individuals have very low levels of PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor,) a protein that comprises part of a “molecular fingerprint” related to aging or senescence of cells. It was previously known that PAI-1 was related to aging in animals but unclear how it affected aging in humans.

“The findings astonished us because of the consistency of the anti-aging benefits across multiple body systems,” said Dr. Douglas Vaughan, the lead author of the paper who has been studying PAI-1 for almost 30 years.

Vaughan, a cardiologist, is the Irving S. Cutter Professor and chairman of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Medicine.

“For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of aging (telomere length), a metabolic marker of aging (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of aging (blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness) all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes,” Vaughan said. “That played out in them having a longer lifespan. Not only do they live longer, they live healthier. It’s a desirable form of longevity. It’s their ‘health span.’”

“Longevity” drug developed by Northwestern and Tohoku University

Northwestern has partnered with Tohoku University in Japanin the development and testing of an oral drug, TM5614, that inhibits the action of PAI-1. The drug has already been tested in a phase 1 trial in Japan and is now in phase 2 trials there. Northwestern will apply for FDA approval to start an early phase trial in the U.S., possibly to begin within the next six months.

The proposed Northwestern trial will investigate the effects of the new drug on insulin sensitivity on individuals with type 2 diabetes and obesity because of the mutation’s effect on insulin levels in the Amish.

A mutation confers longevity

In the new study, Northwestern scientists looked at individuals who had one mutant copy of the gene, rendering their level of PAI-1 about half the level of kindred with two normal copies. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, Amish, living longer, longevity, Northwestern, successful aging, telomeres

Sitting Too Much is Killing Us – New York Times

Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. I have always considered that to mean you should exercise daily. But, an article in Wednesday’s New York Times has a fascinating clarification of those words.

It turns out that moving more, means not only exercising daily, but also being less sedentary when we are back home or even at the office. Don’t sit so much.

The watch on the right displays the three movement measurements.

The watch on the right displays the three movement measurements.

Gretchen Reynolds writes that it all has to do with the length of our telomeres. “If you are unfamiliar with the componentry of your genes, telomeres are the tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands. They shorten and fray as a cell ages, although the process is not strictly chronological. Obesity, illness and other conditions can accelerate the shortening, causing cells to age prematurely, while some evidence suggests that healthy lifestyles may preserve telomere length, delaying cell aging.”

A Swedish study split sedentary seniors into two groups, one began an individualized exercise program and also advised to sit less. The second simply were to continue their lives, but try to lose weight and be healthy with no specific recommendations.

Six months later the groups were brought back and their blood was drawn again to check their telomeres. The exercise group who sat less had telomeres that actually lengthened. “Their cells seemed to be growing physiologically younger. But perhaps most interesting, there was little correlation between exercise and telomere length. In fact, the volunteers in the exercise group who had worked out the most during the past six months tended now to have slightly less lengthening and even some shortening, compared to those who had exercised less but stood up more.”

It was the reduction in the sedentary time that had lengthened the telomeres, not the exercising, the scientists concluded.

So, in the future, make an effort to stand up and get away from your desk at work, or your couch at home in the evening and move a little. You may live longer as a result.

This reminded me of one of the features on the new Watch from Apple. The Activity App on the new watch has a display that measures how much you stand in a day. “Apple Watch senses when you stand up and gives you credit when you do. So you can minimize your sedentary time throughout the day. If you’ve been sitting too long, it reminds you to get up. You close the Stand ring when you’ve stood for at least one minute in 12 different hours during the day. “

So, if you have been looking for an excuse to pay $350 for the new Watch when it comes out next year, you have it. The Watch can help you to live longer.

If you don’t care to go all high tech in your efforts to live longer, remember to stand up more often. The results will be the same. Eat less; move more.


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Filed under aging, telomeres