Discoveries in DNA Repair

A recent DNA repair discovery could potentially lead to the creation of drugs that can reverse aging, fight cancer, and help assist in eliminating the effects radiation exposure. While it has long been known that DNA repair is essential for cell vitality, cell survival, and cancer prevention, the decline in cells’ ability to repair damaged DNA with age has not been fully understood.

A team of scientists at Harvard Medical School has identified a critical step in assessing how cells repair damaged DNA. Published in the journal Science, the international team’s study pinpointed a vitamin called NAD+, which regulated the interactions that control DNA repair. When mice were given an NAD+ booster called NMN, experiments indicated that their cells were more effective in repairing DNA damage caused by aging, and radiation exposure. The mice’s DNA repair activities markedly shifted to ‘youthful levels,’ and further trials demonstrated that they were more resistant to radiation; therefore, they were more protected against cancer and aging itself.

Human trials of NMN therapy will begin in Boston, in the next six months. One of the lead professors on the team from Harvard discussed the potential for evaluating how people walk, their strength, and ultimately transitioning the molecule to a substance on the drug market, in order to treat diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. The results further shed light on a possible therapy to avert the unwanted side effects of environmental radiation, by restoring NAD levels by NMN treatment—in addition to radiation exposure from cancer treatments.

Common Blood Tests: Predicting Chronic Disease

In a recent study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, researchers found a way to predict the future risk of diabetes or dementia, and other chronic diseases, through the combination of common blood test results.

Presented last week at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, the research indicates that a score based on a common blood test could—within three years of taking the test—help people gauge their risk of developing chronic diseases. The simple risk score, termed the Intermountain Chronic Disease Risk Score was 77-78 percent accurate in its predictions of the most common chronic diseases.

Based on a comprehensive metabolic panel, which includes tests for blood glucose and liver function coupled with a complete blood count that measures the quantity of different types of blood cells, this score could likely ultimately help physicians better allocate their time and resources. A patient whose score puts him/her in the high-risk group might receive more intensive patient education about lifestyle, or other preventive measures, with a follow-up visit in six months as opposed to a year.

The tests utilized to calculate the score are commonly performed at routine checkups, while the score itself can easily be calculated by the hospital’s electronic health record—making it easier for doctors to use, and at a low incremental expense. The potential benefits are enormous: enabling patients to lead healthier lives as they avoid, or proactively learn to manage chronic diseases; helping patients avoid serious complications that often result from unmanaged chronic diseases; and dramatically decreasing the costs of healthcare.

Alzheimer’s & Glucose: Reducing Sugar Intake

While scientists have long known that excess glucose—or sugar—and its breakdown products have the potential to damage proteins and cells through a reaction called ‘glycation,’ the specific molecular link between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease was neither confirmed nor fully understood.

Yet scientists have recently confirmed a ‘tipping point’ molecular link between the blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease, as a study published in the journal Scientific Reports has demonstrated that excess glucose irreparably damages a critical enzyme is involved with inflammation response to the early stages ofAlzheimer’s.

Unusually high blood sugar levels, also called hyperglycemia, is a familiar characteristic of diabetes and obesity; indeed, patients with diabetes have been shown to have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy individuals. In the early stages of the disease, abnormal proteins aggregate to form ‘plaques and tangles’ in the brain, which progressively lead to severe cognitive decline.

By utilizing a sensitive technique to detect glycation through brain samples of people both with and without Alzheimer’s, a team of scientists discovered that—in the early stages of Alzheimer’s—glycation damages an enzyme called MIF (macropage migration inhibitory factor), which ultimately plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation. This enzyme is involved in the response of brain cells to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain during Alzheimer’s, and researchers believe that inhibition and reduction of MIF activity—caused by glycation—could be the proverbial ‘tipping point’ in disease progression. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, so too does glycation of these enzymes increase.

Researchers articulate that this knowledge will be vital in developing a chronological trajectory of the progression of Alzheimer’s, and will assist in identifying those at risk, in addition to new preventive techniques and treatments. Moreover, this potential link with Alzheimer’s serves as another reason to curb and lower sugar intake.

Mark Rosenberg, MD, FMNM, a physician who has extensively studied the mechanisms of cancer treatment failure, and developed new preventive therapies, states: “Glucose or sugar, is a source of fuel for normal cells and malignant cells. The more resistant and aggressive cancer cells tend to rely on the metabolism of glucose through a process called glycolysis. These cells over-express GLUT-1 transporters, as well as insulin, to pull in as much sugar, as quickly as they can, so they can meet their energy requirements. There are multiple studies correlating elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance, and diabetes with the risk, as well as survival, for many cancers. Bottom line, from a cancer perspective: minimize sugar intake.”

Around 50 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a statistical figure predicted to rise to more than 125 million by2050. Researchers believe that the global cost of the disease will likely escalate into the hundreds of billions of dollars, as medical patients require further social and palliative care, due to the debilitating cognitive effects of the disease.