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We're a little crazy, about science!

Turning Back the Clock: Arteries

Fountain of youth

In what appears to be Fountain of Youth month here at Lunatic Laboratories, we have yet another way to turn back the clock, this time specifically for your arteries — at least that’s what University of Colorado Boulder are hoping with the new study they recently released. 

When researchers gave mice [the human age equivalent of 70 to 80 year olds] water containing a specific antioxidant [MitoQ] for four weeks, they found that the arteries of those mice performed like arteries from mice with an equivalent human age of just 25 to 35 years.

The researchers believe that MitoQ affects a thin layer of cells that lines our blood vessels called the endothelium. One of the main functions of the endothelium is to dilate when needed, but as people age the endothelium cannot trigger dilation as easily, which contributes to the statistics we see on cardiovascular disease. 

“One of the hallmarks of primary aging is endothelial dysfunction,” said Rachel Gioscia-Ryan, a doctoral student in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology and lead author of the new study. “MitoQ completely restored endothelial function in the old mice. They looked like young mice.”

Now about the science [this is a science blog after all], the endothelium dilates in response to the nitric oxide it produces, if you buy workout supplements that is why you can find nitric oxide boosters [that do not work]. As you age your body produces reactive oxygen species — something like superoxide for example. This destroys the nitric oxide and has another adverse effect, it reacts with a the enzyme that produces nitric oxide, this causes the endothelium to produce even less. 

When you are young you produce reactive oxygen species as well, in small quantities of course, because they are needed for cellular function. As we age, the general idea is that your body has trouble regulating production because antioxidants in the body tend to taper off as you age. This results in damage in the body.

That phenomenon, known as oxidative stress, occurs when the cells of older adults begin to produce too much superoxide and other reactive oxygen species. Mitochondria are a major source of superoxide in aging cells and the increased superoxide not only interacts with nitric oxide and the endothelium, but can also attack the mitochondria themselves. The damaged mitochondria become increasingly dysfunctional, producing even more reactive oxygen species. So as it turns out, it is a fairly vicious cycle.

Unfortunately this doesn’t mean you should run out and buy antioxidants like vitamin C, studies have shown that they are not effective at reversing the aging that occurs. But that is what makes this study unique, MitoQ targets the mitochondria specifically. 

“The question is, ‘Why aren’t we all just taking a bunch of vitamin C?” Gioscia-Ryan said. “Scientists think that, taken orally, antioxidants like vitamin C aren’t getting to the places where the reactive oxygen species are being made. MitoQ basically tracks right to the mitochondria.”

As it turns out the old saying, there is more than one way to skin a cat [albeit a touch vulgar] is true, there is more than one road to the fountain of youth. In the future we might just be taking a handful of pills and we will extend our lives past anything we have seen naturally.

Already know about your cristae junctions? You probably want the full study — here.

Sources:

Gioscia-Ryan R.A., LaRocca T.J., Sindler A.L., Zigler M.C., Murphy M.P. & Seals D.R. (2014). Mitochondria-targeted antioxidant (MitoQ) ameliorates age-related arterial endothelial dysfunction in mice, The Journal of Physiology, n/a-n/a. DOI:

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