Exercising: your Heart and Brain

Okay … this isn’t so much about genetics or biotech, but these articles are ones I came across and said “wow, I have to tell people about this” — so here it is!

These articles discuss the scientific reasons why going to the gym makes you feel more alert, and how cardiovascular exercise helps your heart.

The first study shows a correlation between exercise and better results on memory tests. The study done by the Columbia University Medical Center explains specifically what exercise does within the brain:

This finding is significant because it was accomplished via the first-ever observation of neurogenesis, the growth of neurons, within a living brain. Using an MRI imaging technique developed at Columbia, the researchers were able to identify neurogenesis within the dentate gyrus region following exercise.

“No previous research has systematically examined the different regions of the hippocampus and identified which region is most affected by exercise,” said Scott A. Small, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center and the study’s lead author.

See more at: New Reason To Hit The Gym: Fighting Memory Loss (ScienceDaily)

The second study, also from the Columbia University Medical Center shows that aerobic exercise is good for the heart, but why? Here is what they found:

Whole blood samples were taken from 46 healthy young adults (20-45 years old) both before and after participating in moderate or high intensity aerobic exercise, over a 12-week period.

The blood samples were stimulated with the infectious agent lipopolysaccharide (LPS) – gram negative bacteria – and then analyzed for levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) – an initial step in the inflammatory cascade. Substantially lower levels of TNF were found after aerobic training, in both the moderate and high intensity groups.

“These findings suggest strongly that exercise reduces the systemic inflammation that can lead to heart disease,” said Dr. Sloan. “This study is especially significant because the value of exercise has never before been shown in TNF, and never in healthy adults who were not at high-risk for heart disease.”

See more at: Why Aerobic Exercise Is Good For The Heart (ScienceDaily)

Stem Cells: A day in Review

There has been a flurry of activity today with headlines discussing all sorts of findings with relevance to stem cells. In this post, we are going to discuss finding a muscular “fountain of youth” switch, a successful stem cell therapy in mice (we’ve cured so many mice), and the potential discovery of a true stem cell in breast cancer.

Dr. Elena Vasyutina, Carmen Birchmeier, and Diana Lenhard of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) found a genetic switch (RBP-J) that governs the regeneration of satellite cells (muscle stem cells) . If this switch is turned off, satellite cells decrease in overall number, and are replaced by normal muscle cells which will ultimately die and become unrenewable over time (aging?). See Fountain Of Youth: Molecular Switch Holds Key To Reserve Supply Of Muscle Stem Cells for a full review on the research findings.

In other news, doctors at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research found that stem cells act through multiple mechanisms to benefit mice. The article mentions that the scientists were successful at implanting mouse neural stem cells (NSCs). These stem cells replaced damaged brain tissue and were found integrated throughout the brain. In fact, some transplanted cells transmitted nerve impulses, which showed electrical integration and functionality in a previously diseased brain. This is potentially great news for patients with ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A stem cell therapy might be just around the corner.

The March issue of Cancer Cell reports that a group of scientists, led by Dr. Kornelia Polyak of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, that there are two genetically distinct tumourigenic breast cancer cells. Dr. Polyak said that “If the breast cancer cells were all coming from a single cancer stem cell, you might be able to cure the disease with just one drug. But our findings suggest that the tumor cells come from a ‘stem-like’ progenitor cell, and then diverge genetically, so I think you have to treat both cell types.” (See full story by harminka, writer at HULIQ.com)