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Innerva: the UK wellness company meeting the demand for active ageing

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Howard Blackburn knows exactly why the company to which he has devoted more than 30 years of his working life, is in his opinion a game changer for those looking to keep fit in the second half of their lives.

“Because we are the only product, the only manufacturer, who has focused all of its efforts on this particular age group, the only one that has invested in understanding the needs of this age group, and we are the only one that has worked with three different universities in understanding this age group’s needs and creating a solution that delivers the right package, in the right way, in the right balance.

“So, we believe we are a game changer because we have taken up the challenge of meeting the needs of the older adult and providing the perfect solution. We believe we are a game changer because we are the only people who can do this properly and effectively. And we are absolutely confident we are a game changer because of the wonderful feedback we get.

“The magic we have is that we give people a helping hand who may have limited mobility or lack the confidence to exercise. We take away the fear of not being able to exercise and very gradually we give older people the confidence to stay fit and healthy.

“We feel proud that we are delivering the right thing, and we know the world and the market will come round to seeing this.”

The company Howard is talking about is UK-based Innerva. The Yorkshire firm bills itself as the world’s leading provider of power-assisted exercise equipment. It’s a bold claim. Innerva is by no means the only manufacturer of resistance fitness equipment.

But Howard says what makes Innerva different from its rivals is that it’s dedicated to helping the over 55s – and especially those with a range of long-term health conditions – get fit, stay fit, and age well.

Howard Blackburn, CEO of Innerva.

The 65-year-old, who has recently stepped into a new role as Innerva’s CEO after handing over the day-to-day running of the company to new managing director, Jon Hymus, says: “We are not in the market of making fit people fitter. They are already able to get to the gym and are working out. We can’t do anymore for them.

“The people we are wanting to help are those who want to get fit but maybe don’t like the thought of going to a gym because on past experience they have found the environment too intimidating, the machines too difficult to use, especially if they have mobility or health issues, and feel they don’t fit into the traditional gym scenario.

“But as people are living longer, it is vital we all try to age as healthily and actively as we can. And here at Innerva we are leading the way in providing the solutions people need to achieve that.”

Innervra works with leisure, care, rehabilitation and therapy centres across the UK, Europe and Australia, and is looking to expand into the Middle East and the US.

Just like any other gym equipment manufacturer, the firm offers a range of individual and circuit exercise machines targeting different areas of the body. So whether a user is looking for a full body workout or just to tone up their leg or arm muscles, Innerva has an option.

But unlike conventional exercise machines, Innerva’s range doesn’t rely exclusively on muscle power. Instead the machines are powered by an electronic system that enables users to work passively or actively, depending on their level of fitness and abilities.

All the equipment has been designed to provide safe exercise to all the major muscle groups and over time will help to retrain muscle patterns, improve circulation, and ultimately fitness.

It makes power-assisted exercise the perfect choice for older people with mobility and health issues, or for those who may just be looking to get fit after a long period of inertia.

Whilst Howard has been involved in the power-assisted exercise market since the late 1980s, Innerva is actually a new name in the field.

The company which is based near the West Yorkshire town of Holmfirth – fittingly the location of the classic BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine centred around three elderly men reminiscing about their childhood days, and trying to stay young by engaging in madcap feats not usually undertaken by people their age – has recently undergone a name change that Howard says better reflects its unique selling point, or USP.

Innerva actually started out life as Shapemaster in 1989, perhaps best known for its toning tables. Howard, an engineer by training, had joined the company to work on developing and manufacturing a UK version of the toning tables that had taken America by storm.

He says: “There was a boom in toning tables. Power-assisted exercise was the thing. At that time it was mainly boutique centres and it was like a ladies only thing.

“I joined the company and at the time I didn’t know much about business. I was just an engineer. I had never even heard of these exercise machines, but I was a confident engineer and thought I could make anything. I had always been interested in things that move, so it was like a calling for me.”

Howard rescued the company to form Shapemaster Global. As the market moved away from toning tables, the company redesigned its offering to include seated power-assisted fitness machines for the care, therapy and rehabilitation markets. It has continued to innovate and evolve over the years.

But people still associated Shapemaster with toning tables. So last year Howard changed his company’s name to Innerva. “I was looking through the planets, and spotted one called Minerva. I took the ‘M’ off it and it became Innerva. It sounded like innovate and it just sounded right.

“The V as a Roman numeral also represents the five elements of healthy ageing, those components of fitness and physical performance which are central to sustained wellbeing in older people: cardio, flexibility, balance, strength and mental wellbeing.”

To keep ahead of the game, Innerva’s products have been evaluated in numerous university-led studies.

In one recently conducted at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellness Research Centre (AWRC), muscular, biochemical and physiological responses to power-assisted exercise amongst healthy older adults was measured. The results conclusively showed the immediate beneficial physical responses to exercising on Innerva equipment, and hence the positive impact on the five elements of healthy ageing, thus helping in maintaining and improving the quality of everyday living.

Innerva has also been the recipient of £1.1m in funding as part of the UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge. The firm is now partnering with the AWRC as well as Manchester Metropolitan University to explore the challenges older adults face in accessing physical activity and how public sector leisure providers can successfully engage with the market.

Innerva will also develop new solutions that promote active ageing, giving UK leisure operators the tools to help people in their local communities remain independent and socially connected for as long as possible.

The global population is ageing. By 2035, more than half of adults in the UK are expected to be over the age of 50 and the number of people aged 85-plus is projected to double by 2050. But it’s a double-edged sword. Whilst people’s life expectancy has increased, the number of years they are living in poor health is sadly also growing.

Being physically active is one of the most effective ways to improve quality of life in later years – and help relieve the burden on overstretched health services.

“I’ve done research on what happens to people who have had a stroke, who have had a fall, and it’s quite staggering the amount of money the NHS spends on acute care, such as mending someone with a broken hip. Something like 50% of people don’t make it to year two. There are some shocking statistics. But if they do, I think the cost of a fall can be more than £60,000 to the NHS, where there is a fracture involved.

“If you look at the whole sector, falls make up more than 50% of A&E admissions in the over 60s, and the NHS spends something like £5m a day on falls, but a lot less on fall prevention. It’s the same if you look at stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in fact anything that comes with a measure of preventability.

“The NHS is saying that 80% of these conditions are preventable with better health, and part of that better health is from exercise.

“It didn’t take long to put two and two together to think that if someone could come up with some means of providing exercise, then if you work out what 80% of the cost of all these conditions is, it is actually £20bn. So imagine being able to save the NHS £20bn a year. The NHS costs around £200bn a year to run, so 10% is a massive amount.

“So I thought, here’s a mission, something to get my teeth into. I started to think about looking for a solution for older adults, for that age group for whom inch loss isn’t really important anymore but mobility and quality of life are.”

As he reaches retirement age himself (although he has no desire to hang up his boots just yet), Howard says his belief that everyone has the right to healthy ageing, has never been stronger. Under Jon Hymus’ leadership, Innerva will continue to partner with universities and develop and invest in new technologies and innovations to help people age better.

Howard says: “We’re now nearly three years into the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing, a global movement to improve the lives of older people.

“In my mind, there has never been a greater need for products and services that help people age well. Research and development is and always has been the cornerstone of this business, and going forward we will ensure Innerva remains at the forefront of innovation in the active ageing sector.”

 

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Gut microbes from aged mice induce inflammation in young mice

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Findings from a new study suggest that changes to the gut microbiome play a role in the systemwide inflammation that often occurs with ageing.

When scientists transplanted the gut microbes of aged mice into young “germ-free” mice — raised to have no gut microbes of their own — the recipient mice experienced an increase in inflammation that parallels inflammatory processes associated with ageing in humans. Young germ-free mice transplanted with microbes from other young mice had no such increase.

Published in Aging Cell, the study also found that antibiotics caused longer-lasting disruptions in the gut microbiomes of aged mice than in young mice.

“There’s been a growing consensus that ageing is associated with a progressive increase in chronic low-grade inflammation,” said Jacob Allen, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who led the new research with Thomas Buford, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“And there’s a kind of debate as to what drives this, what is the major cause of the ageing-induced inflammatory state. We wanted to understand if the functional capacity of the microbiome was changing in a way that might contribute to some of the inflammation that we see with ageing.”

Previous studies have found associations between age-related changes in the microbial composition of the gut and chronic inflammatory diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have linked microbial metabolism to an individual’s susceptibility to other health conditions, including obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease. Age-related changes in the gut microbiome also may contribute to the so-called leaky gut problem, the researchers said.

“Microbiome patterns in aged mice are strongly associated with signs of bacterial-induced barrier disruption and immune infiltration,” they wrote.

“The things that are in our gut are supposed to be kept separate from the rest of our system,” Buford said. “If they leak out, our immune system is going to recognize them. And so then the question was: ‘Is that a source of inflammation?’”

Many studies have compared the relative abundance and diversity of species of microbes in the gut, offering insight into some of the major groups that contribute to health or disease. But sequencing even a portion of the microbes in the gut is expensive and the results can be difficult to interpret, Allen said. That is why he and his colleagues focused on microbial function — specifically, how the gut microbiomes of ageing mice might spur an immune response.

The team focused on toll-like receptors, molecules that mediate inflammatory processes throughout the body. TLRs sit in cellular membranes and sample the extracellular environment for signs of tissue damage or infection. If a TLR encounters a molecule associated with a potential pathogen — for example, a lipopolysaccharide component of a gram-negative bacterium — it activates an innate immune response, calling in pro-inflammatory agents and other molecules to fight the infection.

The researchers first evaluated whether the colonic contents of young and aged mice were likely to promote TLR signalling. They found that microbes from aged mice were more likely than those from young mice to activate TLR4, which can sense lipopolysaccharide components of bacterial cell walls. A different receptor, TLR5, was not affected differently in aged or young mice. TLR5 senses a different bacterial component, known as flagellin.

Young germ-free mice transplanted with the microbes of aged mice also experienced higher inflammatory signalling and increased levels of lipopolysaccharides in the blood after the transplants, the team found.

This finding provides “a direct link between ageing-induced shifts in microbiota immunogenicity and host inflammation,” the researchers wrote.

In other experiments, the team treated mice with broad-spectrum antibiotics and tracked changes in the microbiomes during treatment and for seven days afterward.

“One of the most interesting questions for me was what microbes come back immediately after the treatment with antibiotics ends,” Buford said. And in the mice with aged microbiota in their guts, “these opportunistic pathogens were the most quick to come back.”

“It appears that as we age our microbiome might be less resilient to antibiotic challenges,” Allen said. “This is important because we know that in the U.S. and other Western societies, we’re increasingly exposed to more antibiotics as we age.”

The study is an important step toward understanding how age-related microbial changes in the gut may affect long-term health and inflammation, the researchers said.

Co-authors of the study also included Illinois postdoctoral researcher Elisa Caetano-Silva; U. of I. Ph.D. student Akriti Shrestha; National Children’s Hospital research scientist Michael Bailey; and Jeffrey Woods, the director of the Center on Health, Aging and Disability at Illinois.

Allen also is a professor of nutritional sciences at Illinois and an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the U. of I.

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Evening exercise benefits elderly hypertensives

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Evening exercise benefits elderly hypertensives

A study conducted at the University of São Paulo with 23 volunteers found that aerobic exercise performed in the evening benefits elderly hypertensives more than morning exercise.

Aerobic training is known to regulate blood pressure more effectively when practiced in the evening than in the morning.

Researchers who conducted a study of elderly patients at the University of São Paulo’s School of Physical Education and Sports (EEFE-USP) in Brazil concluded that evening exercise is better for blood pressure regulation thanks to improved cardiovascular control by the autonomic nervous system via a mechanism known as baroreflex sensitivity.

Leandro Campos de Brito, first author of the article, commented: “There are multiple mechanisms to regulate blood pressure, and although morning training was beneficial, only evening training improved short-term control of blood pressure by enhancing baroreflex sensitivity.

“This is important because baroreflex control has a positive effect on blood pressure regulation, and there aren’t any medications to modulate the mechanism.”

In the study, 23 elderly patients diagnosed and treated for hypertension were randomly allocated into two groups: morning training and evening training. Both groups trained for ten weeks on a stationary bicycle at moderate intensity, with three 45-minute sessions per week.

Key cardiovascular parameters were analysed, such as systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate after ten minutes’ rest. The data was collected before and at least three days after the volunteers completed the ten weeks of training.

The researchers also monitored mechanisms pertaining to the autonomic nervous system, which controls breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and other involuntary bodily functions, such as muscle sympathetic nerve activity, which regulates peripheral blood flow via contraction and relaxation of blood vessels in muscle tissue, and sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity, assessing control of blood pressure via alterations to muscle sympathetic nerve activity.

In the evening training group, all four parameters analysed were found to improve: systolic and diastolic blood pressure, sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity, and muscle sympathetic nerve activity. In the morning training group, no improvements were detected in muscle sympathetic nerve activity, systolic blood pressure or sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity.

“Evening training was more effective in terms of improving cardiovascular autonomic regulation and lowering blood pressure. This can be partly explained as due to an improvement in baroreflex sensitivity and a reduction of muscle sympathetic nerve activity, which increased in the evening. For now, all we know is that baroreflex control is the decisive factor, from the cardiovascular standpoint at least, to make evening training more beneficial than morning training, since it induces the other benefits analysed. However, much remains to be done in this regard in order to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved,” said Brito, who is currently a professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences in the United States, and continues to investigate the topic via circadian rhythm studies.

Baroreflex sensitivity regulates each heartbeat interval and controls autonomic activity throughout the organism.

“It’s a mechanism that involves sensitive fibres and deformations in the walls of arteries in specific places, such as the aortic arch and carotid body. When blood pressure falls, this region warns the brain region that controls the autonomic nervous system, which in turn signals the heart to beat faster and tells the arteries to contract more strongly. If blood pressure rises, it warns the heart to beat more slowly and tells the arteries to contract less. In other words, it modulates arterial pressure beat by beat,” Brito explained.

In previous studies, the EEFE-USP research group showed that evening aerobic training reduced blood pressure more effectively than morning training in hypertensive men (read more at: agencia.fapesp.br/34194), and that the more effective response to evening training in terms of blood pressure control was accompanied by a greater reduction in systemic vascular resistance and systolic pressure variability (read more at: agencia.fapesp.br/37432).

“Replication of the results obtained in previous studies and in different groups of hypertensive patients, associated with the use of more precise techniques to evaluate the main outcomes, has strengthened our conclusion that aerobic exercise performed in the evening is more beneficial to the autonomic nervous system in patients with hypertension. This can be especially important for those with resistance to treatment with medication,” Brito said.

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Revolutionising cancer treatment: intracellular protein delivery using hybrid nanotubes

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Revolutionising cancer treatment: intracellular protein delivery using hybrid nanotubes

A new hybrid nanotube stamp system has been developed which revolutionises precision medicine with high efficiency and cell viability rates for cancer treatment.

Precision medicine and targeted therapies are gaining traction for their ability to tailor treatments to individual patients while minimising adverse effects. Conventional methods, such as gene transfer techniques, show promise in delivering therapeutic genes directly to cells to address various diseases.

However, these methods face significant drawbacks, hindering their efficacy and safety. Intracellular protein delivery offers a promising approach for developing safer, more targeted, and effective therapies. By directly transferring proteins into target cells, this method circumvents issues such as silencing during transcription and translation and the risk of undesirable mutations from DNA insertion. Additionally, intracellular protein delivery allows for precise distribution of therapeutic proteins within target cells without causing toxicity.

A group of researchers led by Professor Takeo Miyake at Waseda University, Japan in collaboration with the Mikawa Group at the RIKEN Institute have now developed a hybrid nanotube stamp system for intracellular delivery of proteins. This innovative technique enables the simultaneous delivery of diverse cargoes, including calcein dye, lactate oxidase (LOx) enzyme, and ubiquitin (UQ) protein, directly into adhesive cells for cancer treatment.

The researchers explored the therapeutic potential of delivering LOx enzyme for cancer treatment. “Through our innovative stamp system, we successfully delivered LOx into both healthy mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and cancerous HeLa cells. While MSC cells remained unaffected, we observed significant cell death in HeLa cancer cells following LOx treatment with viabilities decreasing over time. Our findings highlight the promising efficacy of intracellularly delivered LOx in selectively targeting and killing cancer cells, while sparing healthy cells, offering a targeted therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment,” explains Miyake.

Finally, the team successfully delivered 15N isotope-labeled UQ proteins into HeLa cells using the HyNT stamp system. This delivery allowed for the analysis of complex protein structures and interactions within the cells. In addition, optical and fluorescence imaging confirmed the presence of delivered UQ in HeLa cells, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy matched the intracellular UQ protein concentration with that of a solution containing 15N-labeled UQ. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of the stamp system in delivering target proteins for subsequent analysis.

The results demonstrate the remarkable capability of the HyNT stamp system in delivering LOx and UQ into a substantial number of adhesive cells, as required for regenerative medicine applications. The system achieved a notably high delivery efficiency of 89.9%, indicating its effectiveness in transporting therapeutic proteins into the target cells with precision. Moreover, the cell viability rate of 97.1% highlights the system’s ability to maintain the health and integrity of the treated cells throughout the delivery process.

The HyNT stamp system offers transformative potential in intracellular protein delivery, with applications spanning from cancer treatment to molecular analysis. Beyond medicine, its versatility extends to agriculture and food industries, promising advancements in crop production and food product development. With precise cell manipulation and efficient delivery, the HyNT stamp system is poised to revolutionize biomedical research, clinical practice, and diverse industries, paving the way for personalized interventions and shaping the future of modern medicine.

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