Intracellular HouseCleaning Will Accelerate YOUR Autophagy

Autophagy nice
but you have to run enough
can’t keep up with mice

Haiku by Rick Yerman

I’m psychic.  How do I know?  I ONLY open up specific e-mails from my clogged, back-logged 208 e-mails when it is timely.  

Case in point.

  • Right this minute  I  returned from a 2 mile walk where I got light-headed.
  • Right this minute I opened up an e-mail from the New York Times my wonderful friend Ida sent days ago.
  • Tomorrow I take a nuclear treadmill test.
  • Last night I ate some bread and butter
  • I could have opened Ida’s e-mail as soon as I got it.  I didn’t.
  • I opened it when I NEEDED to have scientific proof.
  • I just drew Rat pictures for Ramesh’s Elephant and Ant Poem

 Now! Read what she sent and look at my Rat pictures and tell me if I’m not psychic!

Exercise-as-Housecleaning-for-the-Body

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

“When ticking off the benefits of physical activity, few of us would include intracellular housecleaning.

But a new study suggests that the ability of exercise to speed the removal of garbage from inside our body’s cells may be one of its most valuable, if least visible, effects.

“In the new research, which was published last month in Nature, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas gathered two groups of mice. One set was normal, with a finely tuned cellular scrubbing system. The other had been bred to have a blunted cleaning system”.

“It’s long been known that cells accumulate flotsam from the wear and tear of everyday living. Broken or misshapen proteins, shreds of cellular membranes, invasive viruses or bacteria, and worn-out, broken-down cellular components, like aged mitochondria, the tiny organelles within cells that produce energy, form a kind of trash heap inside the cell.”

“In most instances, cells diligently sweep away this debris. They even recycle it for fuel. Through a process with the expressive name of autophagy, or “self-eating,” cells create specialized membranes that engulf junk in the cell’s cytoplasm and carry it to a part of the cell known as the lysosome, where the trash is broken apart and then burned by the cell for energy.”

Without this efficient system, cells could become choked with trash and malfunction or die. In recent years, some scientists have begun to suspect that faulty autophagy mechanisms contribute to the development of a range of diseases, including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The slowing of autophagy as we reach middle age is also believed to play a role in aging.

Most metabolism researchers think that the process evolved in response to the stress of starvation; cells would round up and consume superfluous bits of themselves to keep the rest of the cell alive. In petri dishes, the rate of autophagy increases when cells are starved or otherwise placed under physiological stress.

Exercise, of course, is physiological stress. But until recently, few researchers had thought to ask whether exercise might somehow affect the amount of autophagy within cells and, if so, whether that mattered to the body as a whole.

“Autophagy affects metabolism and has wide-ranging health-related benefits in the body, and so does exercise,” says Dr. Beth Levine, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at U.T. Southwestern. “There seemed to be considerable overlap, in fact, between the health-related benefits of exercise and those of autophagy,” but it wasn’t clear how the two interacted, she says.

So she and her colleagues had lab mice run. The animals first had been medically treated so that the membranes that engulf debris inside their cells would glow, revealing themselves to the researchers. After just 30 minutes of running, the mice had significantly more membranes in cells throughout their bodies, the researchers found, meaning they were undergoing accelerated autophagy.

That finding, however, didn’t explain what the augmented cellular cleaning meant for the well-being of the mice, so the researchers developed a new strain of mouse that showed normal autophagy levels in most instances, but could not increase its cellular self-eating in response to stress. Autophagy levels would stubbornly remain the same, even if the animals were starved or vigorously exercised.

Then the researchers had these mice run, alongside a control group of normal animals. The autophagy-resistant mice quickly grew fatigued. Their muscles seemed incapable of drawing sugar from the blood as the muscles of the normal mice did.

More striking, when Dr. Levine stuffed both groups of animals with high-fat kibble for several weeks until they developed a rodent version of diabetes, the normal mice subsequently reversed the condition by running, even as they continued on the fatty diet. The autophagy-resistant animals did not. After weeks of running, they remained diabetic. Their cells could not absorb blood sugar normally. They also had higher levels of cholesterol in their blood than the other mice. Exercise had not made them healthier.

In other words, Dr. Levine and her colleagues concluded, an increase in autophagy, prompted by exercise, seems to be a critical step in achieving the health benefits of exercise.

The implications of Dr. Levine’s results are, in fact, broad. It’s possible that people who don’t respond as robustly to aerobic exercise as their training partners may have sputtering or inadequate autophagy systems, although that idea is speculative. “It’s very difficult to study autophagy in humans,” Dr. Levine says. Still, it’s possible that at some point, autophagy-prompting drugs or specialized exercise programs might help everyone to fully benefit from exercise.

In the meantime, the study underscores, again, the importance of staying active. Both the control mice and the genetically modified group had “normal background levels of autophagy” during everyday circumstances, Dr. Levine points out. But this baseline level of cellular housecleaning wasn’t enough to protect them from developing diabetes in the face of a poor diet. Only when the control animals ran and pumped up their intracellular trash collection did they regain their health.

“I never worked out consistently before,” Dr. Levine says. But now, having witnessed how exercise helped scour the cells of the running mice, she owns a treadmill.

Now go run like a little rat

but stay away from high-fat  kibble!

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10758.html

Rats have feelings too! (parenthetically speaking by Max)

Dear all my Best Friends and Fans,

I’m here to tell you that rats have been given a bad rap.  First,  they are very small and don’t eat much.  Second, they are fun to chase.  Third, THEY HAVE FEELINGS and are very upset they have been so maligned for so long by you humans.

And now I have proof.  So please read this and I won’t say “I told you so.”

Cagebreak! Rats Will Work To Free A Trapped Pal

“Calling someone a “rat” is no compliment, but a new study shows that rats actually are empathetic and will altruistically lend a helping paw to a cage mate who is stuck in a trap. (Do you think my human has ever lent a paw to help a rat get out of a cage? NO! She smiles when the poor little thing is trapped)

Not only will rats frantically work to free their trapped cage mate; they will do so even when there’s a tempting little pile of chocolate chips nearby, the study reveals. Instead of leaving their pal in the trap and selfishly gobbling the candy all by themselves, rats will free their cage mate and share the chocolate.” (My human gobbles up all the chocolate and won’t share with anyone, much less a rat)

“To me that’s absolutely stunning,” says neurobiologist Peggy Mason of the University of Chicago. “The fact that the rat does that is really amazing.” (Ms Mason would share her chocolate)

Mason and her colleagues designed a series of experiments, described in the journal Science, to explore the evolutionary roots of empathy.

They wanted to look at rats because they already knew, from previous work, that rodents can be emotionally affected by the emotions of their cage mates. For example, during lab procedures, mice seem to experience more pain when they see another mouse in pain.

This is called “emotional contagion,” and humans have it too — just think of how one crying baby can make other babies cry. “But in the end, emotional contagion doesn’t take you very far,” says Mason. “It’s an internal experience. It doesn’t actually do anything for another individual.”

Helping A Fellow Rat

So Mason and her colleagues devised a test to see if rats would take the next step and actually try to help out a fellow rat in distress. They took two cage mates, who knew each other, and trapped one of them in a narrow Plexiglas tube. That’s a mild stressor and one the trapped rat doesn’t like (now that’s a stupid observation – what’s to like. . .unless there’s chocolate in the tube)— it would sometimes make an alarm call.

The free rat outside of this tube seemed to immediately “get” the problem and would work to liberate its pal, says Mason.

The free rat would focus its activity on this plastic tube, crawling all over it and biting it, and interact with the trapped rat through little holes in the tube. “And if the trapped rat has a tail poking out, the free rat will actually grab that tail and kind of pull on it,” says Mason.

Eventually, all this activity would lead to the free rat accidentally triggering a door that opened, releasing the trapped animal. The rats quickly learned to purposefully open the door, and during repeated experiments they would do so faster and faster — but only for a trapped rat. They didn’t act this way when the plastic trap was empty or contained a toy rat.

Rats would free their pals even if the experiment was set up so that the other rat was released into a different cage, so that the two rats did not get to interact after the door was opened. This suggests that the door-opener was really trying to aid its fellow rat, and not just working to get a playmate.

A Helping Behavior

The researchers had a question for the rats: What is it worth to you, to free your fellow rat? “Obviously we can’t ask that question verbally, (now that’s a stupid statement, Rats can’t speak English because their tongues get stuck in their buck teeth) so we wanted to ask it in terms that a rat can communicate to us,” says Mason.

So the scientists used chocolate. They put rats into a cage that held two different clear plastic traps. One contained chocolate chips. The other contained the trapped cage mate.

What they found is that the free rats quickly opened both cages, in no particular order. And they did not eat all the chocolate — instead, they shared it with their fellow rat. (I said I won’t say “I told you so” so I won’t)

A ‘Pro-Social’ Behavior

Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University in Montreal, who has studied empathetic behavior in mice, says this is a surprising study.

“You know, it’s one thing to free the trapped rat that might be making alarm calls. It’s quite another thing to share the chocolate chips,” Mogil said.  (Would my human share chocolate if I were trapped, I think not)

Even though, in the past, many scientists have assumed that altruistic behavior is something uniquely human,  Mogil says we really should not be so surprised to see it in the lowly rat.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.

Lickingly, LLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

Max

P.S.  (The next time you are called a rat. . . Smile and have a piece of chocolate.)