Research Roundup: New Research on Chronic Inflammation and More


Every week there are numerous scientific studies published. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting ones.

Researchers Call for Early Diagnosis and Prevention of Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is increasingly being linked to a broad range of illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, fatty liver disease, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. Inflammation occurs naturally in response to illness and infection, but when it is chronic, it increases the risk of developing other diseases.

Researchers from 22 institutions, including University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University, Harvard and the University College London conducted a perspective study published in the journal Nature Medicine, describing how persistent and severe inflammation plays a key role in numerous diseases. The researchers called for more efforts for early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of severe chronic inflammation to decrease the risk of chronic disease and death worldwide.

“Chronic inflammation is influenced by many social, environmental and lifestyle factors,” said senior author George Slavich, director of the UCLA Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research. “If we make people aware of these risk factors, our hope is that individuals will reduce the factors that apply to them.”

They also urged researchers to work on identifying new biomarkers or substances in the body that will allow for screening and improved diagnosis of severe chronic inflammation. There are a few now, such as C-reactive protein, but the researchers believe there are potentially hundreds more that can be identified in blood.

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Key Protein Associated with Aging ID’ed

Senescence is a process where damaged cells don’t exactly die but go into a sort of hibernation. Senescent cells accumulate in many tissues and are associated with organ degeneration and age-related diseases. Many researchers believe that finding therapeutics that can clear senescent cells could slow down aging and increase healthspan, and this has been successfully tested in animal models. Researchers from the Institut Pasteur demonstrated that progressive depletion of a specific protein drives proliferating cells into irreversible aging. And that the depletion is an early trigger of senescence. The protein is called CSB.

Researcher Describe Structure of Pneumonia Virus Enzyme

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) are closely related viruses that cause severe and life-threatening respiratory diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis. Researchers identified the structure of an enzyme that the viruses use to create protein complexes. The enzyme is called HMPV L:P polymerase. The findings identified several potential molecular sites that may be the target for new drugs.

Not What You Wanted to Hear Going into the Holidays—Even Light Drinking Linked to Cancer

A study run in Japan evaluating data from 33 hospitals in Japan between 2005 and 2016, including clinical data on 63,232 patients with cancer and 63,232 controls matched for sex, age, hospital admission date and admitting hospital, found that even light alcohol consumption was linked to higher cancer risks. The lowest cancer risk was zero alcohol and there was an almost linear association between cancer risk and alcohol consumption—the more you drank, the higher the risk. Light levels were considered equivalent to one drink per day for 10 years or two drinks per day for five years, which would increase overall cancer risk by 5%.

Sepsis-Related Muscle Weakness Linked to Mitochondrial Dysfunction

After sepsis, people often find it difficult to regain strength. Researchers, working in a sepsis-like condition in mice, found that the resulting reduced muscle strength wasn’t caused by muscle loss, but by abnormal mitochondria that showed signs of ongoing oxidative damage. Current treatments post-sepsis work on rebuilding muscle mass, but these data suggest other antioxidant therapies may be beneficial.

Lyme Disease Reports Increased 117% from 2007 to 2018

Although likely linked to increased awareness and better diagnosis, a study by FAIR Health, analyzing insurance claims, found that from 2007 to 2018, claim lines with Lyme disease diagnoses increased across the U.S. by 117% from 2007 to 2018. Oddly, the biggest increase was in urban areas, an increase of 121%, compared to 105% in rural areas. There was also much broader incidence across the country. In 2007, five states had the highest number of claims, all in the Northeast. But in 2018, North Carolina was added. More claims were made by females than males.

Dead Probiotic Appears to Reduce Age-Related Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is a condition where microbes and bacteria in the gut leak into the blood stream through holes or cracks in the intestinal lining. This results in increased low-grade inflammation. It is fairly common in older people. Researchers screened eight strains of human-origin probiotics in roundworms and identified a strain of Lactobacillus paracasei (D3-5), even in its non-viable or heat-killed form, that extended the life span of the roundworms. They then tested it in mice and found that it prevented high fat diet-induced metabolic dysfunctions, decreased leaky gut and inflammation, and improved physical and cognitive functions.

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