Monday, August 15, 2011

New Aging Video

video

Today I set myself the following task: create a 10 minute video that (1) illustrates why global aging is a pressing challenge for humanity and (2) how the science of aging might help us redress some of these challenges.

The result, 12 hours later, is the video above, which ended up running just over 15 minutes.

Cheers,
Colin

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lifestyle and Exceptional Longevity


One's lifestyle obviously has an impact on one's health prospects. Smoking, one's diet, the frequency and intensity of exercise, etc. can increase and decrease one's risk of morbidity and mortality.

But will optimal lifestyle factors alone give people exceptional longevity (100+ years of life)? Are such environmental factors even necessary for achieving exceptional longevity? These are important questions for aging populations to consider as the planet is projected to have 2 billion persons over the age of 60 by the middle of the century. Delaying, and compressing, the onslaught of chronic diseases aging will afflict on human beings this century is one of the greatest moral imperatives of our day.

This interesting study in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society leads more support to the barrage of findings that genetics, rather than lifestyle, is a major determinate of exceptional longevity. The study examined a cohort of Ashkenazi Jews with exceptional longevity, defined as aged 95+. It compared this cohort's BMI, smoking, physical activity, and diet with the general American population. And these long-lived individuals did not live healthier lives than the average person. In fact, the male cohort of those with exceptional longevity had a lower rate of "regular exercise of moderate intensity" than the comparison cohort, and nearly 60% of the males with exceptional longevity had smoked more than 100 cigarettes during their lifetime. The study concludes: People with exceptional longevity are not distinct in terms of lifestyle factors from the general population, suggesting that people with exceptional longevity may interact with environmental factors differently than others. This requires further investigation.

Cheers,
Colin

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Genetics of MS


The latest issue of Nature has this study on the genetic architecture of multiple sclerosis. Below is the abstract:

Multiple sclerosis is a common disease of the central nervous system in which the interplay between inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes typically results in intermittent neurological disturbance followed by progressive accumulation of disability. Epidemiological studies have shown that genetic factors are primarily responsible for the substantially increased frequency of the disease seen in the relatives of affected individuals and systematic attempts to identify linkage in multiplex families have confirmed that variation within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) exerts the greatest individual effect on risk4. Modestly powered genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have enabled more than 20 additional risk loci to be identified and have shown that multiple variants exerting modest individual effects have a key role in disease susceptibility11. Most of the genetic architecture underlying susceptibility to the disease remains to be defined and is anticipated to require the analysis of sample sizes that are beyond the numbers currently available to individual research groups. In a collaborative GWAS involving 9,772 cases of European descent collected by 23 research groups working in 15 different countries, we have replicated almost all of the previously suggested associations and identified at least a further 29 novel susceptibility loci. Within the MHC we have refined the identity of the HLA-DRB1 risk alleles and confirmed that variation in the HLA-A gene underlies the independent protective effect attributable to the class I region. Immunologically relevant genes are significantly overrepresented among those mapping close to the identified loci and particularly implicate T-helper-cell differentiation in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.


Cheers,
Colin

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

POLS 250


video
This year I am teaching my full year intro to political theory course again here at Queen's. The course goes from Plato through to Marx. I show the above "trailer" at the start of the course to help get my students pumped up for engaging in this "battle of ideas".

Cheers,
Colin