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Study Suggests Maintaining Klotho Protein Levels Protects Against ALS-Related Nerve Degeneration

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gherig’s Disease after the famous baseball player who was forced to retire after experiencing the disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease. The medical term for ALS accurately describes the effects the disease has on patients. Amyotrophic refers to three root terms: a meaning “no,” myo meaning “muscle,” and trophic meaning nourishment, all of which combine to indicate that the condition leads to no nourishment of muscle tissue and atrophy, or wasting away, of the affected tissue. Lateral indicates the upper and lower areas of the spinal cord that lead to muscle atrophy, and sclerosis refers to the hardening and scarring of the affected regions.

In ALS, motor neurons that provide an essential connection between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body degenerate or deteriorate rapidly. When the motor neurons eventually die, the brain can no longer cause or control muscle movement, leading to their eventual atrophy. Soon after, individuals can experience partial or total paralysis of voluntary muscles, leading to an inability to control muscle movement, speak, eat, and even breathe. The average life expectancy after receiving an ALS diagnosis is between three and five years.

Lack of Available Treatments

Currently, there is no cure for ALS. While familial, or inherited, ALS accounts for some cases of the disease, nearly 95% of cases occur sporadically, without any known genetic precursor. 

In an effort to find a potential preventive treatment for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases, researchers at Boston University’s School of Medicine have turned to study biological models that simulate neurodegenerative conditions. As a result, scientists have identified a certain protein that appears to serve a unique, beneficial purpose in protecting the brain from the mechanisms of ALS.

Klotho Protein

In Boston University’s School of Medicine laboratory model, researchers identified an anti-aging protein called klotho protein that showed neuroprotective effects. In fact, increasing klotho protein levels reduced neurological deficits in experimental models of both Alzheimer’s Disease and multiple sclerosis (MS). Researchers then posited that klotho protein increases may aid in protecting the brain against other neurodegenerative diseases, as well.

In a subsequent study on a laboratory model, klotho protein provided similar neuroprotective effects against ALS. Klotho protein was shown to reduce ALS-associated neurological deficits, thus providing a potential decrease in the manifestation of symptoms. In conjunction with the presence of anti-inflammatory brain cells called microglia, klotho protein shows potential to protect the brain against inflammation, degeneration, and motor neuron loss.

Future Implications

Klotho protein therapy, along with other activities that increase klotho levels, have been shown to potentially prolong the life of an ALS patient by as much as 300 days. Further, increasing klotho levels appears to improve quality of life by reducing ALS symptoms in patients who have already discovered the disease.

While the klotho protein has long shown benefits for other neurodegenerative diseases, this new information provides hope and potential therapeutic applications for the thousands of patients currently suffering from ALS.

Resources:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/buso-pop062719.php
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12031-019-01356-2

https://www.als.org/understanding-als/what-is-als 

Michelle has been a part of the journey ever since Bigtime Daily started. As a strong learner and passionate writer, she contributes her editing skills for the news agency. She also jots down intellectual pieces from categories such as science and health.

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Health

The Subtle Cues in Our Environment that Encourage Healthier Living

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The choices we make each day regarding our diet, activity and lifestyle habits ultimately determine our health and wellbeing. Nonetheless, the surroundings we inhabit also actively influence those decisions, whether we realize it or not. Our built environment contains many subtle cues that either promote or impede healthy behaviors. With thoughtful awareness, we can leverage and shape these cues to nudge ourselves toward more positive choices. 

Architectural Cues for Active Living

Urban design and infrastructure elements play a major role in our activity levels. Visible, accessible staircases encourage climbing over passive elevator use. Features like centrally located, attractive stairwells bathed in natural light make stairs hard to ignore. Artwork beautifies the ascent while music enlivens acoustics. Placing stairwells near prominent gathering areas also maximizes exposure and use. Conversely, hidden dreary stairwells discourage climbing. Building layouts should make stairways the default for short trips. Thoughtful design embeds activity into daily routines.

Outside, continuous sidewalks and protected bike lanes provide clear cues that active transit is safe and expected. Ample parking signals driving is preferable. Traffic calming measures like speed humps and narrowed lanes imprint mental cautions for vehicles to accommodate bikes and pedestrians. Sidewalk street furniture and plantings buffer walkers from traffic. Crosswalks, pedestrian signals, and refuge islands imprint rights of way. Complete Streets redesign allocates fair space for diverse safe use. Our infrastructure surroundings can literally pave the path for active living.

Office and Home Cues

Subtle factors within buildings also affect activity and diet. Kitchen placement, for instance, affects our choices. Research shows open concept kitchens integrated into living areas encourage more healthful cooking and family meals than closed off kitchens. Islands and open shelving provide visual snack cues that can either prompt cravings or showcase fruits, nuts, and other healthy grabs. Kitchens sited near entries or offices also maximize visibility and food prep use rather than distant basement kitchens. 

At offices, centrally located shared spaces like break rooms, cafes and snack nooks encourage communal meals, informal gatherings and refueling walks to retrieve snacks. Providing showers, bike racks and lockers signals active commuting is valued. Standing and treadmill desks prompt movement during sedentary work, while choice architecture guides selections from communal food areas. Simple environmental adjustments nudge better decisions.

Nutritional Cues at Markets and Restaurants

Eateries and markets harbor cues that stimulate cravings along with willpower depletion. Certain lighting, music, and décor stimulate overindulgence. Cues that unconsciously hurry patrons undermine reasoned decisions. Scented air surrounding baked goods stalls awakens salivation and desire. Strategic menu design also sways choices. Listing unhealthy items first or at eye level suppresses willpower. Descriptive names romanticize less healthy options. Menu formatting can also highlight nutritious dishes and portion guidance. Markets use product placement for maximizing impulse grabs. Though subtle, environmental exposures across stores and eateries significantly sway our eating choices.

Cues for Hydration and Rest

Proper hydration and sleep are imperative for our wellbeing but are easily overlooked when immersed in urban settings and schedules. Environmental design can combat these gaps through strategic cues. Plentiful public water fountains provide visual refreshment reminders throughout cities, while placing restrooms near fountains links the hydration notion. Cafes position chilled water dispensers up front for thirst-quenching without calories. Homes and offices forget hydration less with decorative pitchers and glasses on tables. Lighting design is key for sleep cues. Dimming lights in workplaces and warm home lighting provide visual preparation for rest. Cool-toned blue hues stimulate and signal awakening. Our surroundings can cue us to drink and sleep wisely.

Signage and Sensory Cues  

Explicit signs offer direct visual cues to healthier behaviors – such as a no smoking sign that prompts at entrances. Staircases could feature plaques tallying burned calories. Cafeterias may display encouragements to take smaller portions or try vegetable sides. Signs foster mindfulness and restraint at choice points. Sensory cues also guide behaviors. Smells eliciting happiness or calm can de-stress environments. Soothing natural sounds and music relax tense settings. Harsh lighting and noise stimulate frenetic energy and impulsiveness. Pleasant sensory experiences invite more mindful, deliberate choices. Uplifting cues infuse healthy messaging into spaces.

Art and Nature Cues for Wellbeing  

Artwork carrying uplifting themes or depicting healthy activities, fruits and vegetables, serene nature and joyful gatherings infuses visual positivity into surroundings. Murals and wall graphics remind us what truly matters for wellbeing. Images are digestible in passing, sinking into the subconscious. Vibrant, thriving plants and greenery provide natural visual relief and comfort that lower stress. Decor mimicking natural materials brings warmer textures. Spatial flow mimicking nature’s curves calms minds. Natural light and windows boost mentality and sleep cycle regulation. Thoughtful touches of art and nature foster mental balance, positivity, and healthy choices.

Conclusion

Our everyday surroundings contain many subtle influences on our diet, activity, sleep, and lifestyle, either promoting or hindering health. But heightened awareness of these cues allows us to consciously reshape environments for encouraging wiser choices. Simple changes to architecture, office layouts, signage, lighting, art, and nature contact encourage movement, nutrition, and wellbeing. Our minds absorb ambient cues, so design wisely. When supportive healthy cues surround us, positive habits become a little easier, more inviting, and purposeful. Think about cues you could shift for better living. Small nudges in public spaces and our homes can guide us all toward healthier, more thoughtful lives.

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