For healthy ageing, get up off that chair from time to time!
Researchers in the USA have used the results of an Australian survey "45 and Up" which studied the health and ageing of 194,545 men and women of ages 45 to106, to show that even moderate activity can help reduce the chronic diseases usually associated with ageing.
"Not only do people need to be more physically active by walking or doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, but they should also be looking at ways to reduce their sitting time," Richard Rosenkranz, one of the US researchers, said.
They found that sitting for prolonged periods of time changes the activity of some enzymes that help metabolise fat. Following previous research, they confirmed that the more people sit, the greater their chances of of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and early mortality.
In a more positive approach, these scientists are trying to get the message to younger people to try standing for part of their day, even if they are in a sedentary occupation – or at least to break up periods of sitting with bursts of standing or walking around.
Trees can store gold in their leaves
I have written several times about the amazing properties of plants (eg au.christiantoday.com). Now, by using new microscopic techniques at the Australian Synchroton in Melbourne, CSIRO scientists have actually seen particles of gold in the leaves of eucalypt trees that are growing over a gold deposit.
Although it has long been known that eucalypts put down very deep roots (up to 30 metres) to get their water, the scientists were surprised to find that the trees had also brought up nano-sized gold particles and deposited them in the leaves, where they can do the plants no harm. This phenomenon is also seen in other types of trees and shrubs.
"Even 500 trees growing over a gold deposit would only yield enough gold for one wedding ring," explained Dr Melvyn Lintern, a research geochemist. However, this knowledge may have some use in revising strategies for exploration and mining by saving all the cost and all the time in drilling holes, according to mining geochemist Nigel Radford, who has worked in mining exploration for many years.
Reducing the damage due to heart attacks.
When our bodies are invaded by foreign substances (including micro-organsims), the first line of defence is a type of immune cell called an inflammatory monocyte. This tries to destroy the invading particle, and in the process causes the familiar inflammation we see when a cut is healing, or when we get an insect bite, or even the high temperature if we get the 'flu.
However, if the damage is due to our own cells and not an invading particle, then this inflammation can do us harm. That is what happens after a heart attack – these immune cells think that the damaged heart muscles need to be destroyed – and they do, in order to 'clean up the mess'. But unfortunately, they can be over-enthusiastic and cause more damage to the heart muscle than the original heart attack.
Australian researchers at the University of Sydney have found by serentipity that, in mice, a nano-particles of lactic-co-glycolic acid can fool these cells into attacking them instead, and they do not rush to invade the heart muscle in such large quantities and the scarring of the heart can be reduced by up to 50%. This substance has already proven to be safe, as it is used in body implants.
In theory, this could be applied to other diseases where there is an inflammatory response.
Addendum: Australia Day Honours list
On Australia Day, I made a quick perusal of the top two honours, and although scientists are not (yet) in the majority – even counting 'medicine' as a 'science' – there is a respectable number of scientists included.
In the Companion of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC), there are three scientists out of seven recipients: a professor in biomedical research; a scientist and university educator; and a theoretical physicist. Interviews with two of them, discussing the importance of incremental science research, are reported here: www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/01/26/3931768.htm
The Officer of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) has been awarded to approximately 40 people, five of them in science-related areas and a further six for work related to medicine.
If you are interested in following this up in detail, you can check out all the recipients on the Governor General's website: www.gg.gov.au/australia-day-2014-honours-lists
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at