Neuroscientists have long understood that age and stress damage the brain, in part by depleting energy reserves that are crucial to brain cell function. At its most extreme, such damage shows up as diseases like Alzheimer’s. But new research out of Johns Hopkins indicates that exercise may play a powerful role in protecting the brain against age- and stress-related damage.Hopkins neuroscientists paired up with researchers at the National Institute on Aging to examine the effect that exercise had on the brains of mice. They found that mice who exercised had higher levels of an enzyme called SIRT3. Then the researchers started looking more closely at the role of this enzyme. They found that mice without SIRT3 were highly sensitive to stress, and that mice without SIRT3 didn’t get any neural protection from running. But when researchers increased SIRT3 levels, the enzyme was able to protect neurons from stressors and degeneration.
In other words: This looks like a promising gene therapy for degenerative brain diseases, including those related to aging.
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