A transfusion of blood from runners could be a ground-breaking treatment for slowing down Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s thought that a cocktail of chemicals released in the blood after exercise has rejuvenating and protective effects on the brain; previous research has found those who exercise regularly are less likely to develop the condition.
Now doctors are giving monthly transfusions to around 60 people with early signs of Alzheimer’s in a year-long clinical trial led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — around 850,000 people in the UK have some form of dementia, and with an ageing population this number is predicted to rise to 1.5 million within the next two decades.
It’s thought that a cocktail of chemicals released in the blood after exercise has rejuvenating and protective effects on the brain; previous research has found those who exercise regularly are less likely to develop the condition
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not yet fully understood, although a number of factors are thought to increase your risk, including a family history and cardiovascular disease, as well as lifestyle factors such as obesity.
Meanwhile, a number of studies have shown that regular exercise and cardiac and respiratory fitness can lower the risk and the progression of the disease.
For instance, a study in 2019 by St Olav’s Hospital in Norway — which is also part of the new trial — based on data from 30,000 people, revealed those who increased their lung capacity through exercise, had a 40 to 50 per cent reduced risk of having Alzheimer’s more than ten years later.
‘Maintaining or improving cardiorespiratory fitness over time may be a target to reduce risk of dementia incidence and mortality, delay onset and increase longevity after diagnosis,’ the researchers wrote in the journal The Lancet Public Health.
One theory is that exercise causes complex chemical changes in the blood that affect the brain and counteract age-related and disease-related changes associated with Alzheimer’s.
These chemical changes were identified in a study by Stanford University in the U.S. last year.
Researchers measured the blood levels of 17,662 molecules before and after ten minutes of exercise, and found specific changes occurred in more than half of cases.
Some compounds increased, while others dropped. The molecules were involved in many different areas, from the immune system and appetite, to tissue repair and inflammation.
Doctors described the molecular changes following exercise as a ‘symphony’ that could be beneficial in dementia, reported the journal Cell. The idea behind the new treatment is that the same changes can be created in the brains of people with early-stage dementia through blood transfused from fit, young people who have exercised.
A transfusion of blood from runners could be a ground-breaking treatment for slowing down Alzheimer’s disease
In the trial, patients aged from 50 to 75 with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s will be given monthly 200ml transfusions of blood for 12 months.
The blood will be taken from 30 volunteers aged 18 to 40, who will run on a treadmill to the point of exhaustion, before giving a blood sample over the next four weeks.
The blood will be processed to avoid contamination.
Patients will be monitored for five years and their brain volume, blood flow and disease markers will be measured. The results will be compared with a placebo group given saline transfusions.
Commenting on the trial, James Rowe, a professor of cognitive neurology at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘It is a very interesting idea. It may raise eyebrows, but there is serious science here, and we know that taking exercise lowers risk.
‘We await the results with interest, and in the meantime, those of us who can, should be taking more exercise because we know it is one way we can all reduce the risk.’
Peppermint oil could be used to help improve heart health. In a new trial at the University of Central Lancashire, 20 people will be given a peppermint drink or a placebo. Previous research has suggested peppermint can reduce blood pressure because it has a relaxing effect on the lining of arteries.
Special coating prevents infections in new joints
Applying a special coating to artificial hip and knee replacements before surgery could slash the risk of infections.
One in 100 such procedures currently results in infection, leading to repeat surgery.
U.S. scientists from Duke University have developed a coating that stops the formation of biofilms — a sticky layer of bacteria that can destroy new joints. It takes just ten minutes to brush this on to an implant before insertion.
In animal tests , the coating prevented infection for 20 days after surgery and with no need for antibiotics, reports the journal Nature Communications.
Lack of sleep means you eat unhealthier snacks
Poorer sleeping habits are linked to worse snack choices, according to a study by Ohio State University in the U.S.
The researchers analysed data from nearly 20,000 people, looking at their eating patterns and whether they slept more or less than the recommended seven hours a night. Those who slept less consumed more calories, carbohydrates, added sugar and caffeine.
The findings, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggest that the longer we’re awake, the more likely we are to eat. Researchers said: ‘Even if you’re trying to fall asleep, at least you’re not in the kitchen eating. So if you can get yourself to bed, that’s a starting point.’
Could a mattress that tilts and shakes make labour easier?
A high-tech vibrating mattress that tilts and shakes may help speed up labour.
Research shows regular changes of position can reduce the time it takes women to give birth by 1.2 hours, cutting the risk of a caesarean by 29 per cent.
But the use of epidurals can reduce a woman’s ability to move about.
The mattress, called Vibwife, has a motor inside it that is controlled via a remote. It was found to be safe when tested by 50 women in labour, according to the recent study in the journal Midwifery. The researchers, from Basel University in Switzerland, say further trials are needed to identify the best positioning and, critically, whether the device affects the method of delivery as well as the length of labour.
Muscle-building pill may boost cancer therapy
A supplement containing an amino acid can boost the effectiveness of cancer treatment, reports the journal Science Advances.
When given before radiotherapy, the amino acid arginine, which is used by the body to build protein, was found to help patients.
More than 80 per cent of 42 volunteers in a trial experienced an improvement in their symptoms six months later (compared with 20 per cent who took a placebo).
Arginine is thought to work by increasing production of nitric oxide, which usually helps improve blood flow to tumours, aiding their growth. However, in large amounts it stresses the cancer cells, explained the scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine in the U.S.
The researchers warned that further studies are needed.
The conditions linked to the strength in your hand. This week: Erectile dysfunction
The lower a man’s grip strength, the higher his risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), according to a 2018 study carried out by researchers in South Korea.
Each 5kg fall in grip strength increased the risk of ED by 18 per cent, reported the journal Aging Male.
It’s thought this reflects low testosterone levels, which reduce muscle strength but also cause erectile dysfunction, explains Professor Mike Kirby, who works at The Prostate Centre in London.
He says studies have found one in three men mentioning erectile dysfunction to their doctor turn out to have low testosterone levels.
It’s possible to treat low testosterone with hormone replacement therapies, but exercise may also help reduce the risk of ED. The South Korean researchers found that men who exercised a lot were 25 per cent less likely to experience ED — probably because exercise increases muscle mass and testosterone levels.
Did you know?
Researchers have produced the first map of the ticklish areas of the skin — aided by a large hen’s feather. Highly ticklish zones include knees, inner thighs, the stomach and neck, say scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, possibly due to higher nerve concentration in those areas.
Do I need?
This week: Oraldent Cold & Flu Guard, 50ml, £9.99, oraldent.co.uk
Claim: The maker says this spray ‘contains a hyaluronate barrier, which coats the mucosa [nose and mouth lining], allowing the antibacterial and antiviral bioflavonoid complex to neutralise bacteria and viruses upon contact’.
Expert verdict: ‘All the results for antiviral and antibacterial activity are based on lab tests — there’s no evidence the treatment works when administered to humans,’ says Ron Eccles, an emeritus professor at Cardiff University and former director of the Common Cold Centre.
‘The bioflavonoids [compounds found in fruit and vegetables] have been shown to have antiviral action against a range of viruses and bacteria in the lab, but not when mixed with mucus as you would have in the nose. The ingredients are safe, so this may help you feel in control of any symptoms.’