Connect with us

News

IL-17 protein identified as playing central role in skin ageing

Published

on

Wrinkles are a natural part of ageing. But few of us welcome their appearance.

Whilst we may be prepared to embrace the wisdom and experience that comes with age, the same can’t be said of those telltale lines, creases, furrows and folds that so visibly announce to the world that our salad days are behind us.

Such is our horror at quite literally being faced with a face full of crow’s feet and worry lines, that a multi-billion dollar industry has grown up pandering to our frantic attempts to turn back time.

The global anti-ageing market is estimated to be worth more than $60bn US dollars. As society becomes increasingly more beauty-conscious, the market for anti-ageing and skin-changing products is projected to reach a staggering $93bn by 2027.

But a new study conducted by a team of scientists from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) and the National Center for Genomic Analysis (CNAG), both in Barcelona, has now identified the protein that plays a key role in skin ageing – opening up the possibility of new therapies being developed targeted at improving skin health.

The study published in the journal Nature Aging and led by Dr Guiomar Solanas and Dr Salvador Aznar Benitah, both of IRB Barcelona, and Dr Holger Heyn at CNAG, reveals that blocking the function of IL-17 delays the appearance of age-related features in the skin.

Skin ageing is characterised by a series of structural and functional changes that gradually contribute to the deterioration and fragility associated with age. Aged skin has a reduced capacity to regenerate, poor healing ability, and diminished barrier function.

Dr Benitah, who is head of the Stem Cells and Cancer laboratory at IRB Barcelona, said: “Our results show that IL-17 is involved in various functions related to ageing. We have observed that blocking the function of this protein slows down the appearance of various deficiencies associated with ageing skin.

“This discovery opens up new possibilities for treating some of the symptoms or facilitating skin recovery after surgery, for example.”

Dr Heyn, head of the Single Cell Genomics laboratory at CNAG, added: “Single cell sequencing has allowed us to dive deep into the complexity of cell types and states forming the skin and how these change during lifespan.

“We did not only find differences in the composition of aged skin, but also changes in cell activity states. Particularly immune cells showed specific age-related profiles, which we could pinpoint by analysing thousands of individual cells one at a time.”

In addition to a wide variety of epithelial cells, hair follicle cells, and other components, the skin is also home to immune cells, which play a crucial role in preventing infection and protecting against different damages.

The groundbreaking researh describes how, during ageing, the presence of some of these immune cells, namely gamma delta T cells, innate lymphoid cells, and CD4+ T cells, significantly increases in the skin. These same cells also start expressing very high levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17.

Dr Paloma Solá, first author of the paper, together with Dr Elisabetta Mereu, who is now a researcher at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute in Barcelona, said: “Ageing is associated with mild but persistent inflammation and, in the skin, this is characterised by a significant increase in IL-17, which causes skin deterioration.”

Previous studies had described that IL-17 is related to some autoimmune skin diseases, such as psoriasis, and there are existing treatments that block this protein.

The team of researchers studied the response of various aspects to blocking IL-17 activity, including hair follicle growth, transepidermal water loss, wound healing, and genetic markers of ageing.

These four parameters showed an improvement after treatment, as the acquisition of these ageing traits was significantly delayed.

Dr Solanas, associate researcher at IRB Barcelona, commented: “IL-17 protein is essential for vital body functions, such as defence against microbes and wound healing, so permanently blocking it would not be an option. What we have observed is that its temporary inhibition offers benefits that could be of interest at a therapeutic level.”

Future work by the researchers will focus on clarifying the ageing processes that are related to inflammatory states in the skin and how these are linked to IL-17.

The team will also address whether IL-17 is involved in the ageing and deterioration of other tissues and organs.

News

On a mission to show that hearing loss is not inevitable

Published

on

The world’s largest investigation into the effectiveness of hearing training kicks off this week – as part of a movement to prove that hearing loss is not an inevitable part of ageing.

The research project aims to attract a minimum of 10,000 participants to better understand how hearing training impacts auditory processing skills like speech comprehension and the ability to locate where sounds are coming from.

Researchers are interested in the impact of hearing training on users who start training with different hearing ability levels, as well as training adherence in groups with different attitudes to smartphone technology.

Their aim is to find new ways to deliver and improve auditory training at scale and for a wider range of hearing skills; and to measure factors which influence training engagement.

The research is led by health tech firm Eargym. Co-founder Andy Shanks says:  Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. We can take steps to improve and protect our hearing throughout our lives, yet preventative measures like hearing training have traditionally been under-researched.

“Our data shows the transformative impact hearing training can have on our ability to process sounds. Now, we want to deepen and widen our research and use our platform to make hearing training even more effective and accessible. Imagine improving and maintaining your hearing by up to 20% or more: it could make a big difference to the lives of so many people.”

The games on the Eargym app include a “busy barista” exercise, where users must discern speech over a cafe’s bustling background noise; and a “sound seeking” exercise, where users make their way through forests, jungles and oceans to locate the sources of different sounds. Each game is designed to be immersive and to help users practise specific auditory processing skills regularly.

Eargym was set up by former NHS CEO Amanda Philpott and DJ Andy Shanks in 2020, after they were both diagnosed with hearing loss. Amanda has moderate age related hearing loss, whilst Andy has “notch” or noise-induced hearing loss due to DJ-ing. Both found hearing loss isolating and it impacted their ability to socialise and communicate. They created eargym to empower others to better understand their hearing health and take proactive steps to protect it.

Hearing loss currently affects 18 million adults in the UK, with around one billion young people at risk of developing hearing loss due to increased use of headphones. Hearing loss is closely associated with increased dementia risk. Despite this, people wait an average ten years before seeking help for hearing loss.

Eargym plans to publish the findings of its research in early 2025.

Continue Reading

News

Interview: Exploring electrical stimulation for Parkinson’s disease

Published

on

The STEPS II study is investigating functional electrical stimulation (FES) in people with Parkinson’s disease to help improve their walking. Dr Paul Taylor, co-founder and Clinical Director of Odstock Medical Ltd (OML), spoke to Agetech World to tell us more.

Bradykinesia – slowness of movement which can lead to difficulty walking – affects many people living with Parkinson’s disease. The symptom can cause Parkinson’s patients to walk or move slowly, increasing the risk of falls, leading to a reduced quality of life and an increased dependence on others. 

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, sponsored by Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, and managed by the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit, the STEPS II study is exploring the use of an FES device in Parkinson’s patients to help improve bradykinesia. 

The FES device, which has been pioneered by Salisbury researchers as a drop foot treatment for stroke and MS patients, is attached to the patient’s leg and produces small electrical impulses that improve movement.

“If you have Bradykinesia you’re moving slowly. The predominant treatment for Parkinson’s is medication and these can be very effective, but they have the problem of not working all the time,” explains Taylor, co-founder of Odstock Medical Ltd, a company owned by Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust.

”The effects of the drugs will wear off and after a period of time they become less effective, so, there’s a need for improvement.”

Taylor explains that deep brain stimulators are currently available, however, they are very invasive, expensive and can be risky. 

“We’re trying to do something which is a bit simpler and cheaper, which may possibly be able to help people at an earlier stage of Parkinson’s,” Taylor says.

“We’re stimulating the common peroneal nerve, which is the nerve that goes down the leg to the muscles, using a device called a drop foot stimulator. The device is commonly used for stroke and multiple sclerosis.”

A small feasibility study has already been conducted, which showed that FES can help patients walk faster and reduce some symptoms of Parkinson’s. 

In the STEPS II study, researchers hope to confirm the long-term effects of FES on walking speed and daily life with 234 participants at sites across Salisbury, Birmingham, Prestwick, Leeds, Swansea and Carlisle.

Taylor continues: “Our original idea was that we could use electrical stimulation to overcome freezing – which is the effect where people with Parkinson’s will stop walking, particularly when they come to doorways or very narrow areas. It’s to do with the processing of information from the outside world. 

“We wanted to see if we could use electrical stimulation to overcome that freezing and, to a certain extent, we did find that is the case for some patients, but more commonly and with a greater number of patients FES affected bradykinesia – speeding up their movement and helping with more effective walking.”

For the STEPS II study, participants will be randomised into a care as normal group, or a care as normal plus FES group. They will use the stimulator if they are in the FES group for 18 weeks, then the stimulator is taken away, with patients followed up one month later to see if the effects are continued.

Measurements of walking speed and movement will be analysed, along with sensory perception, balance, coordination, muscle strength, as well as secondary effects such as how the device impacts daily living and quality of life.

OML has established clinics around the country with trained therapists where the device will be used if the study is successful. 

“There’s a network of clinics already experienced in using the treatment so we plan to reach those clinics to include Parkinson’s patients in their cohorts,” says Taylor. “Then we’ll work with our contacts to see if we can get it overseas as well.”

OML is currently recruiting participants for the study, to find out more please visit: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/penctu/steps-2 

Continue Reading

News

Quit Googling to stave off dementia onset, expert urges

Published

on

Resisting the temptation to search the web for information that could otherwise be recalled be exercising your brain could help to reduce the risk of dementia.

That is according to Canadian academic Professor Mohamed I. Elmasry who believes simple daily habits such as afternoon naps, memory ‘workouts’ and not reaching for a smartphone can increase the odds of healthy aging.

His new book, iMind: Artificial and Real Intelligence, says the focus has shifted too far away from RI (natural, or real) intelligence in favour of AI (machine, or artificial) intelligence. Elmasry instead calls us to nurture our human mind which, like smartphones, has ‘hardware’, ‘software’ and ‘apps’ but is many times more powerful – and will last much longer with the right care.

Professor Elmasry, an internationally recognised expert in microchip design and AI, was inspired to write the book after the death of his brother-in-law from Alzheimer’s and others very close to him, including his mother, from other forms of dementia.

Although he says that smart devices are ‘getting smarter all the time’, he argues in iMind that none comes close to ‘duplicating the capacity, storage, longevity, energy efficiency, or self-healing capabilities of the original human brain-mind’.

He writes that: “The useful life expectancy for current smartphones is around 10 years, while a healthy brain-mind inside a healthy human body can live for 100 years or longer.

“Your brain-mind is the highest-value asset you have, or will ever have. Increase its potential and longevity by caring for it early in life, keeping it and your body healthy so it can continue to develop.

“Humans can intentionally develop and test their memories by playing ‘brain games,’ or performing daily brain exercises. You can’t exercise your smartphone’s memory to make it last longer or encourage it to perform at a higher level.”

In iMind: Artificial and Real Intelligence Professor Elmasry shares an anecdote about his grandchildren having to use the search engine on their smartphones to name Cuba’s capital—they had just spent a week in the country with their parents.

The story illustrates how young people have come to rely on AI smartphone apps instead of using their real intelligence (RI), he says, adding: “A healthy memory goes hand-in-hand with real intelligence. Our memory simply can’t reach its full potential without RI.”

Published by Routledge, iMind: Artificial and Real Intelligence includes extensive background on the history of microchip design, machine learning and AI and their role in smartphones and other technology.

The book also explains how both AI and human intelligence really work, and how brain function links the mind and memory. It compares the human mind and brain function with that of smartphones, ChatGPT and other AI-based systems.

Drawing on comprehensive existing research, iMind aims to narrow the knowledge gap between real and artificial intelligence, to address the current controversy around AI, and to inspire researchers to find new treatments for Alzheimer’s, other neurodegenerative conditions and cancer.

It argues that current or even planned AI cannot match the capabilities of the human brain-mind for speed, accuracy, storage capacity and other functions. Healthy aging, Professor Elmasry notes, is as important as climate change but doesn’t attract a fraction of the publicity.

He calls for policymakers to adopt a series of key reforms to promote healthy aging. Among such changes, he suggests that bingo halls could transition from their sedentary entertainment function to become active and stimulating learning centers.

As well as napping to refresh our memories and other brain and body functions, he also outlines a series of practical tips to boost brain power and enhance our RI (Real Intelligence).

These include building up ‘associative’ memory – the brain’s ‘dictionary of meaning’ where it attaches new information to what it already knows. Try reading a book aloud, using all of your senses instead of going on autopilot and turning daily encounters into fully-lived experiences.

Other techniques include integrating a day for true rest into the week, reviewing your lifestyle as early as your 20s or 30s, adopting a healthy diet, and eliminating or radically moderating alcohol consumption to reduce the risk of dementia.

Continue Reading

Trending