2009 Experimental Biology Conference
(Note: readers will find a condensed version of this article in the Life Extension Foundation magazine, Sept. 2009. p18-19, “In The New” section)
The Experimental Biology Conference (FASEB) was held this year in New Orleans. The FASEB conference brings in scientists from all over the world, with more then 10,000 in attendance this year. Topics covered are wide ranging, including topics aging, cancer, cardio vascular disease, weight loss, and genetics, to name just a few. It’s truly the place many of the worlds’ top scientists converge to discuss and display the most cutting edge research in their respective areas of focus.
Various scientific societies make up the FASEB conference: The American Association of Anatomists (AAA); The American Physiological Society (APS): American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB); American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP): American Society for Nutrition (ASN); American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET); are all represented at FASEB.
Needless to say, this is a big conference! A great deal of the information presented at FASEB is of direct relevance to people here and now, some of which can be applied to their everyday lives in their quest for a healthier longer life. Much of the research directly supports what we already know; various naturally occurring compounds can prevent disease both directly and or indirectly. What follows is a small sample of some of the more relevant information readers may find useful to their goals of better health and longer life.
Because the shear amount of research that existed, coverage of each will be short and sweet…
Inflammation and CVD; New theories on obesity:
A fascinating symposium called “Nutrition in Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease” examined the role of inflammation in both cardio vascular disease as well as obesity and the cluster of metabolic issues that is Syndrome X or Metabolic Syndrome. That an essential step in the etiology of CVD is chronic inflammation is not a new concept per se, but more recently embraced by the scientific and medical community. One of the more interesting topics in this symposium was the issue of adipocytes (fat cells) as the main drivers of inflammation both locally and systemically and the role that plays in CVD and other diseases.
Fat cells have now become a major focus as highly active cells that control a wide variety of metabolic functions and feedback mechanisms in the human body that leads to CVD, diabetes, and other ailments. Most interesting is the new paradigm that obesity may be partly an inflammatory disease. More interesting is the theory that obese people suffer mild endo-toxemia. Endotoxins are associated with bacteria and cause inflammation. It’s been found that endotoxin levels are elevated in obese people, and these endoxins cause a low-grade inflammation which interacts with fat cells, causing a viscous cycle. The exact cause and effect of increased endoxin levels found in obesity is unclear at this time, but researchers are putting considerable effort into finding the answer and this symposium went a long way to connecting the dots on the role inflammation plays in CVD, Metabolic Syndrome, and possibly obesity. It was also noted that people with inflammatory diseases also suffer higher rates of CVD, so the link is well established and the mechanisms better understood. It was also clear from a verity of talks given that known natural anti-inflammatory compounds found in fish oils, green tea, cinnamon, and others may mitigate the inflammation in these chronic inflammatory states.
SIDE BAR: Nutrigenomics ______________________
Without a doubt, the most cutting edge research looking at the relationship between what we eat – be it food or supplements – and the benefits we derive, is the science of nutrigenomics. As the name implies, nutrigenomics looks directly at how nutrients interact with our genes. Wikipedia defines it as “the study of molecular relationships between nutrition and the response of genes, with the aim of extrapolating how such subtle changes can affect human health.” Some of the nutrients we eat are very powerful modulators of our genes. Perhaps one of the best defined at this time are the fatty acids found in fish oil; EPA and DHA. These two fatty acids have various health benefits that actually works on the genetic level. To show just how exiting and powerful this area of research is, one speaker commented that the active constituents found in fish oils (EPA/DHA) could actually nullify the genetic disposition some people had for developing Syndrome X and cardio vascular disease. This is an extremely promising and important finding. The science of nutrigenomics is very much in its early stage, and genetics is a complex topic, but it was very much in the forefront of the FASEB conference. Research is ongoing, and this area of research will yield the most essential results in the history of human kind to human health and longevity!
Green Tea plus Vitamin D3 and bone loss:
Osteopenia is a condition where bone mineral density is lower than normal and is considered to be a precursor to osteoporosis. Chronic low grade inflammation is also known to be an essential part of bone loss in some cases, and it’s well established that people with acute inflammatory diseases suffer from higher rates of osteoporosis. A symposium entitled “Models for Bone Health” presented data that tested the effects of green tea polyphenols and vitamin D3 in animals which followed a human model of low grade inflammation negatively impacting bone health. These researchers found both D3 and Green Tea polyphenols decreased bone loss and decreased inflammation. However, when combined the effect was more pronounced, showing a true synergism between the combination of green tea polyphenols and vitamin D3 on bone health. The combination increased bone mineral density (BMD), reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and DNA damage and positively impacted hormones known to control BMD.
Flax Lignans and Auraptene, a powerful agent against breast tumors:
A symposium that looked at how the diet may effect cancer called “Diet and Cancer” had a presentation that looked at the effects of flax and sesame lignans on estrogen receptor-positive human tumor cells. The researchers implanted mice with human breast cancer cells and added estrogen to encourage the growth of these cells. They then fed the mice either flax lignans or sesame lignans (vs. a control group) to see what effects either had on tumor growth. It was found the flax lignans were most effective and reduced breast cancer cell proliferation, and increased the rate of programmed cell death (apoptosis) of human breast cancer cells. Sesame lignans were found to be much less effective then lignans from Flax.
The researchers made note that it’s unclear at this time if the effects they found come directly from the lingans – and or other compounds found in flax – or if the effect is due to metabolites formed from these naturally found constituents of flax during digestion and metabolism, and research is ongoing. Meanwhile, people can enjoy the health benefits from flax lignans and wait for science to figure out why!
Another natural agent derived from citrus fruits called Auraptene has been shown to be a powerful agent against breast cancer. A known carcinogen scientists use to cause cancer in animals is called N-methyl nitrosourea. Researchers find this naturally derived compound to be highly chemoprotective* against various cancer drugs while being toxic to cancer cells, in both in vitro (test tube) and in vivo (living animals) and decreased breast cancer cell proliferation by over 50% when breast cancer was induced via N-methyl nitrosourea. Auraptene may turn out to be one of the most powerful natural anti cancer agents yet found according to researchers speaking at this symposium.
The many benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids:
As readers of the LEF magazine know well by now, Omega-3 lipids offer a wide variety of health benefits. A symposium entitled “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Health” added additional information to the ever growing body of research that shows these fatty acids should be a staple to anyone’s longevity/health program. In fact, the first speaker to this symposium started out by making the bold statement that life span is inversely related to Omega-3 tissue levels. It’s been well characterized that much of what takes place in aging and disease happens at the level of the mitochondria, the part of our cells where energy is generated. The researchers outlined how Omega-3 lipids – more specifically EPA/DHA – appear to play an essential role in mitochondrial function by altering cell membranes. It’s been found the ratio of these fatty acids in the mitochondrial membrane is essential to the optimal function of the mitochondria.
Animals genetically altered to have higher ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 lipids in their tissues, have greatly reduced levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), a primary cause of oxidative stress to tissues, and a cause of mitochondrial aging and dysfunction. These animals suffer less oxidative stress and improved mitochondrial function.
Perhaps one of the most interesting research presented at this symposium was the discovery that Omega-3 lipids are neuro-protective acutely. It’s well known that the chronic intake of omega-3 lipids is neuro protective, but research was presented that showed it’s also neuro protective in animals suffering cerebral hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) which is what happens during a stroke even if the animals had not been fed omega – 3 lipids prior to the stroke! This is an amazing finding and could save the lives of millions of stroke victims or at the very least could reduce the amount of tissue damage they suffer from the stroke.
Two groups of animals were fed their normal chow, then suffered strokes and cerebral hypoxia, which is what happens in stroke victims which leads to brain tissue death. One group of animals was given an emulsion of EPA/DHA immediately after their stroke, and the effects were quite striking. The animals who did not get this emulsion had significantly more brain injury, less preserved living brain tissue and had much greater neuronal loss compared to the animals given the EPA/DHA emulsion. The researcher showed via actual brain tissue slices, the animals given the emulsion suffered less edema (another damaging effect of stroke), and far less brain damage/tissue death compared to those that didn’t get the Omega-3 fatty acids.
This research shows these amazing fatty acids have both chronic and acute benefits, and a first line therapy for greatly reducing brain damage due to strokes – which is the third leading cause of death in the US and costs approximately 70 billion dollars per year – may be giving them such an emulsion as soon as possible after a stroke. It’s unclear if an oral dose of fish oil caps would have similar effects, but it may be worth trying in this writers opinion…
The above is a very small sample from a very large conference. As the reader can see, great strides are being made in understanding what natural compounds can do for all that ails humanity. This writer will continue to follow the cutting edge science as it first appears at similar conferences with readers reaping the benefits of fast-as-possible communication of research to practical application.
* = chemoprotective agents are drugs which protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of anticancer drugs.