American scientists seem to have found the secret to extending the lifespan of brain cells, thus spawning hope for a longer life.
A molecular biologist and a nanoscientist at the University of Central Florida have found that nanomaterials developed for industry have an unexpected and potentially revolutionary side effect: They can triple or quadruple the life of brain cells.
The result is people could live longer and with fewer age-related health problems.
Beverly Rzigalinski, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology and at the Biomolecular Sciences Center, and Sudipta Seal, associate engineering professor at the Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center and the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering, will receive 1.4 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging to study the reasons behind the reaction and possible future applications.
Rzigalinski has spent the bulk of her career studying how brain cells "talk" to each other, most recently focusing on microglia -- a specialized cell that responds to brain injury and initiates the response to either repair or destroy the damaged neuron.
Seal creates nanostructure materials and recently developed a process for engineering particles on a nanoscale -- so they might have more efficient industrial applications.
Because of the current flurry of publicity that anti-oxidants have received for their potential anti-aging properties, Rzigalinski decided to explore introducing the miniaturized particles to the brain cells of rats.
"In culture, rat brain cells usually live about three weeks," Rzigalinski said.
"The cells exposed to the engineered nanoparticles lived three to four times longer."