It has always seemed rather obvious that regular exercise slows the ageing
process. Now Tel Aviv University researchers have proven it at the cellular and
molecular level. Prof. Dafna Benayahu and her team at TAU’s Sackler Medical
Faculty found that exercise increases the amount of muscle stem cells, which
ordinarily decline as people age. This prevents proper protection of the muscle
mass and disrupts its ability to repair itself.
But people who exercise
all their lives have more such cells, which contribute to the body’s ability to
renew old muscles.
The researchers, who published their report in the
online open journal PLoS One, said they hoped their discovery would lead to the
development of a new drug to help muscles repair themselves better in the
“As we age, our bodies undergo a process called sarcopenia, in
which muscle mass declines and function is impaired.
Osteopenia is a
decline in bone mass. As a result, the skeleton and muscles are more sensitive
to daily damage,” said Benayahu.
Team member Dr. Gabi Scheffer added that
when working with rats, they found that exercise increases the number of muscle
stem cells. When they compared the number of such cells in rats that ran on a
treadmill for 20 minutes a day over 13 weeks, they found a 20% to 35% increase
in the number of cells for each muscle fiber in young rats, and an increase of
33% to 47% in older rats.
“Thanks to this advance, we can now dream of
developing drugs for humans that will increase muscle mass and reduce the
negative effects of ageing.”THE KEYS TO LONGEVITY
With an estimated 78
million ageing US baby boomers, knowledge of aging may have a tremendous impact
not only on future quality of life, but also on costs of healthcare. Dr. Nir
Barzilai, a Yeshiva University expert at its Albert Einstein Institute for Aging
Research, has learned quite a lot about longevity genes. Barzilai and his New
York team have so far conducted genetic analyses of more than 500 Ashkenazi
Jewish centenarians and near-centenarians, over 700 of their children (aged 60
to 85) and more than 600 age-matched unrelated controls. The team validates its
findings by comparing genetic markers found in the children of centenarians with
those markers found in or absent from children whose parents have what’s known
as “usual survival.”
Ashkenazim were selected because their genetic
makeup is comparatively homogeneous.
Among the key factors they found
contribute to extreme longevity is having a parent who lived a long life. In
addition, having plenty of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol)
is beneficial, while having a lot of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”
cholesterol) is not. In addition, people with larger HDL and LDL molecule sizes
have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and high
They also discovered that telomeres – those parts of DNA
at the edge of chromosomes that shorten every time the cell divides – are longer
in centenarians, and longer telomeres seem to be inherited by their
Using high-throughput technology and a systems biology
approach, the researchers have begun to sequence the entire genomes of
centenarians, which contain billions of nucleotides. Advances in the field of
epigenetics will help them better understand how protective or harmful genes are
activated (“turned on” or “turned off”). This could lead to drug therapies that
regulate gene expression.
Long-term follow-up with the children of
centenarians and unrelated matched controls – not only Ashkenazi Jews – will
prove with certainty whether the longevity genes that Einstein investigators
have already discovered are directly related to protection against
YU’s Einstein College of Medicine says it will willingly share
results of its research studies on the Web so researchers around the world can
conduct their own genevalidation studies; through global collaboration, Einstein
researchers will thus promote the discovery of keys to healthier
aging.SHEBA HELPS START MEDICAL DEGREE PROGRAM IN CYPRUS
The new medical
degree program established in Cyprus by Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and
two foreign universities is expected to attract students from all EU countries,
including Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Russia, the US and Canada.
partners in this major initiative for medical education in the eastern
Mediterranean are St. George’s of the University of London (one of the leading
medical schools in the UK) and the University of Nicosia (the largest private
university in Cyprus). The international medical program will start in September
Students successfully completing the four-year graduate-entry MBBS
(Bachelor in Medicine and Bachelor in Surgery) program will earn a medical
degree from St/ George’s that is recognized worldwide.
They will follow
the innovative Englishlanguage curriculum and have access to the e-learning
medical education resources available to students in London.
At the same
time, they will enjoy the full privileges and state-of-the-art facilities
provided by the University of Nicosia and by Sheba, which will provide teaching
faculty for the pre-clinical study portion of the medical degree program, and
clinical clerkships in Israel for the clinical portion.
LASER ‘CURE’ FOR
NAIL FUNGUS UNPROVEN
Despite widespread advertising by private clinics claiming
that a one-time laser “treatment” cures nail fungus, the chairman of a
conference on skin and nail diseases said earlier this month that this “cure”
has never been proven. Dr. Avner Shemer said at the first Israeli conference on
this subject, held at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya, that it was aimed at
preventing disinformation on such diseases and to counter myths about various
“Regarding lasers, marketing has overcome science.” The
conference was attended by 150 dermatologists, who heard six leading experts
from France, Canada, the US, Greece and Belgium in addition to Israelis.