#21 De-aging in Humans, Faster Ageing in Monkeys and Probiotics Saving Coral...
Skin Cells having reversed ageing, Hurricanes increasing monkey age by two years and a potential coral saving treatment...
🐒Natural Disaster Making Old Monkeys…
A natural disaster made monkeys age faster.
In 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria which claimed the lives of 3,000 people as well as isolating basic services on some parts of the island. Half a mile off the coast of Puerto Rico lies Cayo Santiago, a 38 acre islet home to 1,500 rhesus monkeys that have been subject to hundreds of studies over the years.
Whilst all of the monkeys initially survived Maria, some animals died soon after. Their habitat was ruined with the trees stripped of leaves and the temperature of the island rising by roughly 8 degrees Celsius. Published on February 7th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, a study demonstrated how the disruption has affected the macaques immune system and in doing so accelerate the aging process.
Marine Watowich, an evolutionary biology graduate and lead author of the study said how research initially started on Humans. Humans who survive trauma and extreme stress such as war can show elevated rates of cardiovascular disease, chronic low grade inflammation as well as other symptoms. Scientists have seen hints of molecular changes in cells that reflect accelerated ageing, however no has been able to document them in relation to natural disasters.
What is rare about this study is that researchers had “before and after” blood samples due to a long term gene interaction based study. Therefore the team was able to compare the blood from 435 rhesus macaques drawn prior to the hurricane as well as samples from 108 animals taken a year afterwards. Specifically the researchers looked at the monkeys’ immune cells which are known to change with age. The stress response of the animal is another way in which the immune system can be influenced.
The researchers found that the monkeys who had experienced the hurricane showed a pattern of gene expression within their immune cells similar to that of monkeys sampled prior to the hurricane which were two years older. The team said that “The average monkey aged about two years biologically, so it’s about eight years of human life”. The storm seemed to show its greatest effects on the heat shock proteins that are produced in response to stress and assist in the proper folding of other proteins. The blood samples taken after the disaster showed decreased expression of the genes for these proteins, something that within humans raises the risk of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the storm stressed monkeys also showed signs of an increase in inflammatory immune cells and a decline in the cells responsible for suppressing inflammation, a shift typically seen in older animals.
However Daniel Belsky of the Columbia Mailman School of Public health (not involved in the study) says that the molecular results are suggestive but not definitive. “There is no gold-standard measure of biological ageing” he went on to say. Belsky did add that the data does indicate an aging of the animals in response to the hurricane.
There were many more questions raised following the study with many surrounding the potential long term consequences of the molecular changes and whether these will have a proportionate effect on the life expectancy of the affected animals.
🍷Scientists Reverse Ageing
Scientists can reverse ageing in human skin cells…
According to reports, scientists have developed an exciting new method to reverse ageing. This occurs in the human skin cells and can reverse ageing by up to 30 years becoming the longest “re-programming” technique ever achieved.
Published in eLife, the researchers were partly able to restore the function of older cells as well as renewing the biological age. The trials, based around a simulated skin wound showed partially rejuvenated cells that “behaved” like more youthful cells. According to the Babraham Institute, they developed the first 'maturation phase transient reprogramming' (MTPR) where 'reprogramming factors are expressed until this rejuvenation point followed by withdrawal of their induction'.
The authors of the study went on to say that the magnitude of rejuvenation instigated by this method seemed to be substantially greater than that achieved in previous reprogramming methods. In addition, the MPTR fibroblasts produced youthful levels of collagen proteins as well as showing partial functional rejuvenation of their migration speed.
Professor Wolf Reik, a group leader in the epigenetics research programme said that "This work has very exciting implications. Eventually, we may be able to identify genes that rejuvenate without reprogramming, and specifically target those to reduce the effects of ageing. This approach holds promise for valuable discoveries that could open up an amazing therapeutic horizon." Professor Reik’s lab team went on to say how their results represent a big step forwards in the understanding of cell reprogramming with numerous future applications possible. They proved that function does not need to be lost alongside cell rejuvenation. The team also noted the importance of a reverse of ageing indicators in genes that were associated with diseases and the promise this has for future work.
☀️Probiotics Saving Coral Reefs
Probiotics could help save overheated coral…
Probiotics are defined as a substance capable of stimulated the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties to the desired organism. Whilst there has been a huge craze combining microbiome with yoghurts, supplements and humans, there could be another, arguably more important recipient. Coral!
We know that algae are key to coral, in recent years scientists have wondered whether microbes in coral could help to buffer the effects and damage caused by rising sea temperatures. A recent study suggests that extra bacteria could be the key difference between life and death for corals in warmer conditions. This research has already got the ball rolling with scientists preparing to test the bacterial treatments in the wild with innovative tools to deliver the microbes to the reef.
Coral scientists are racing a clock to devise new ways in which to halt the disappearance of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Just 30% of reefs are likely to survive if global average temperatures are held to just a 1.5 degree Celsius increase. Another half a degree increase and just 1% of the reefs are expected to survive the bleaching frenzy.
A mild temperature spike can upend the delicate relationship held between the polyp and their photosynthetic, symbiotic algae. This bleaching not only strips the coral of its colour, but of its food source. Repeated bleaching events can leave the coral permanently “alone” and so triggering species die off. Coral scientist and microbial ecologist Raquel Peixoto saw the power of microbes whilst studying how soil-borne bacteria affect plant health. Over the last decade she has extracted dozens of bacteria strains from the reef looking for those with a pre-disposition and that may help heat-stressed corals.
In her recent study they examined how the coral Mussimilia hispida fared with and without probiotics. Whilst polyps in the hot tanks all bleached regardless of the treatment, the coral fragments with the probiotics all recovered and so survived the 75 day study. Contrastingly the tanks without the probiotic saw just a 60% survival rate. This is the first time that probiotics has actually prevented coral death.
One of the key differences that suggests an explanation to the results is that the bacteria provide nutrients that can help the polyp endure the loss of their symbiotic algae by breaking down a molecule called dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) that is released as temperature rise. Furthermore the treated corals had less intense physiological responses after the simulated heatwave which the scientists labelled “post-heat stress disorder”. The coral that didn’t get the extra bacteria showed elevated activity related to cell death, cell rebuilding, heat stress and immune response.
The team is now preparing to test the probiotics on isolated reefs in the Red Sea.
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🐒Natural Disaster Making Old Monkeys…
Watowich, M., Chiou, K., Montague, M., Simons, N., Horvath, J., Ruiz-Lambides, A., Martínez, M., Higham, J., Brent, L., Platt, M., Snyder-Mackler, N., Brent, L., Higham, J., Martínez, M., Montague, M., Platt, M. and Snyder-Mackler, N., 2022. Natural disaster and immunological aging in a nonhuman primate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(8).
🍷Scientists Reverse Ageing
Gill, D., Parry, A., Santos, F., Okkenhaug, H., Todd, C., Hernando-Herraez, I., Stubbs, T., Milagre, I. and Reik, W., 2022. Multi-omic rejuvenation of human cells by maturation phase transient reprogramming. eLife, 11.
☀️Probiotics Saving Coral Reefs
Santoro, E., Borges, R., Espinoza, J., Freire, M., Messias, C., Villela, H., Pereira, L., Vilela, C., Rosado, J., Cardoso, P., Rosado, P., Assis, J., Duarte, G., Perna, G., Rosado, A., Macrae, A., Dupont, C., Nelson, K., Sweet, M., Voolstra, C. and Peixoto, R., 2021. Coral microbiome manipulation elicits metabolic and genetic restructuring to mitigate heat stress and evade mortality. Science Advances, 7(33).