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Bats which are carriers of deadly viruses that affect humans like Ebola, rabies, and possibly the SARS-CoV-2 strain of virus that causes coronavirus. However, these viruses have not killed bats but humans.
Bats are remarkably able to tolerate viruses, and, additionally, live much longer than similar-sized land mammals. What are the secrets to their longevity and virus resistance?
According to researchers at the University of Rochester in the US, bats’ longevity and capacity to tolerate viruses may stem from their ability to control inflammation, which is a hallmark of disease and aging.
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In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, biology professors Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov described the mechanisms underlying bats’ unique abilities and how these mechanisms may hold clues to developing new treatments for diseases in humans.
“There may be a very strong connection between bats’ resistance to infectious diseases and their longevity. We also realised that bats can provide clues to human therapies used to fight diseases,” said Gorbunova.
The scientists, along with colleague Brian Kennedy, director of the Centre for Healthy Aging at the National University of Singapore, got to talking about bats.
Unlike humans, bats have developed specific mechanisms that reduce viral replication and also dampen the immune response to a virus.
The result is a beneficial balance: their immune systems control viruses but at the same time, do not mount a strong inflammatory response.
Another factor may be their environment.
Many species of bats live in large, dense colonies, and hang close together on cave ceilings or in trees. Those conditions are ideal for transmitting viruses and other pathogens.
“Bats are constantly exposed to viruses. They are always flying out and bringing back something new to the cave or nest, and they transfer the virus because they live in such close proximity to each other,” said Seluanov.
Because bats are constantly exposed to viruses, their immune systems are in a perpetual arms race with pathogens.
“Usually the strongest driver of new traits in evolution is an arms race with pathogens. Dealing with all of these viruses may be shaping bats’ immunity and longevity”.
However, the study does not suggest for humans to toss their masks and crowd together in restaurants and movie theatres.
Evolution takes place over thousands of years, rather than a few months.
While humans may be developing social habits that parallel those of bats, we have not yet evolved their sophisticated mechanisms to combat viruses as they emerge and swiftly spread.
“The consequences may be that our bodies experience more inflammation,” said Gorbunova.
Studying bats’ immune systems will provide new targets for human therapies to fight diseases and aging, said researchers.
For example, they have mutated or completely eliminated several genes involved in inflammation; scientists can develop drugs to inhibit these genes in humans. (IANS)
Researchers have revealed that drinking low-fat milk is significantly associated with less aging in adults.
Published in the the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, the study from Brigham Young University found that people who drink low-fat milk experience several years less biological aging than those who drink high-fat (two per cent and whole) milk.
“It was surprising how strong the difference was, if you’re going to drink high-fat milk, you should be aware that doing so is predictive of or related to some significant consequences,” said study researcher Larry Tucker from Brigham Young University in the US.
For the study, the researchers investigated the relationship between telomere length and both milk intake frequency (daily drinkers vs weekly drinkers or less) and milk fat content consumed (whole vs two per cent vs one per cent vs skim).
Telomeres are the nucleotide endcaps of human chromosomes. They act like a biological clock and they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, humans lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older people get, the shorter their telomeres, the researchers said.
And, apparently, the more high-fat milk people drink, the shorter their telomeres are, according to the study. The study revealed that for every one per cent increase in milk fat consumed (drinking two per cent vs one per cent milk), telomeres were 69 base pairs shorter in the adults studied, which translated into more than four years in additional biological aging.
When research team analysed the extremes of milk drinkers, adults who consumed whole milk had telomeres that were a striking 145 base pairs shorter than non-fat milk drinkers. Nearly half of the people in the study consumed milk daily and another quarter consumed milk at least weekly.
Just under a third of the adults reported consuming full-fat (whole) milk and another 30 per cent reported drinking two per cent milk. Meanwhile, 10 per cent consumed one per cent milk and another 17 per cent drank nonfat milk. About 13 per cent did not drink any cow milk.
The findings provide support for the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), which encourage adults to consume low-fat milk, both nonfat and one per cent milk, and not high-fat milk, as part of a healthy diet. (IANS)
The key to longevity can probably be found in the genes of your long-living uncles and aunts and not just parents, finds a study.
Researchers, from Netherlands’ Leiden University and US’ University of Utah, showed that an individual’s chances of dying is reduced, even if the parents themselves did not live to be extremely old, but aunts and uncles are among the top survivors in the family.
Top survivors refers to people in the top 10 per cent age-wise of a group of people born in a family within a given time period.
“We observed the more long-lived relatives you have, the lower your hazard of dying at any point in life,” said lead author Niels van den Berg, doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
“Longevity is heritable, but that primarily applies to persons from families where multiple members are among the top 10 per cent survivors of their birth cohort. The key to a long life can probably be found in the genes of these families,” said the paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
For the study, the team analysed the genealogies of nearly 314,819 people from over 20,360 families.
The search for genes associated with human longevity has been ongoing for a long time but those genes turned out to be much more difficult to discover than genes for diseases.
The study has led us to be far stricter in selecting the people in whom you have to look for those genes, the researchers said.
According to Ken Smith, Professor at Utah, the findings underscore the importance of constructing high-quality family trees that “allow us to observe complete life-spans of individuals over generations and in diverse locations. (IANS)
Want a long life? Playing golf regularly can boost longevity as well as reduce the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, a panel of international experts has claimed while stressing on the need to make the sport more inclusive.
The panel, led by the University of Edinburgh, showed that playing golf, which is good for both the mind and body, can also boost strength and balance in older adults.
The sport is also associated with good mental health and improving the overall health of those with disabilities.
It could be because golf is sociable and gets people outdoors to connect with nature.
It can also provide moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, and its health benefits are greatest for players (and spectators) who walk around the course rather than opt for a golf cart, researchers including Andrew D Murray, from Edinburgh’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, explained.
While the risk of injury while playing golf is moderate- like back injuries from one-side swing, compared with other sports, golfers may be more at risk of skin cancer, he noted.
The researchers suggested that golfers should aim to play for 150 minutes per week.
Players should do warm-up or strengthening exercises to cut the risk of injury and use sun-cream and wear collared shirts or blouses to minimise the risk of skin cancer, Murray recommended.
In the study appearing in British Journal of Sports Medicine, the panel drew on a systematic review of the available published evidence (342 eligible studies) and discussions among an international working group of 25 experts in public health and health policy, and industry leaders.
While around 60 million people play golf at least twice a year, the sport is often perceived as expensive, male dominated, difficult to learn, and not a game for the young or those on the lower rungs of the social ladder.
The sport needs to be more inclusive and welcoming of people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, the researchers said. (IANS)