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Exercise produces irisin — irisin might prevent Alzheimer’s, researchers say

Some hope for those who are struggling with the disease.

Photo credit: Bruce Mars on Unsplash
  • Irisin, a hormone in the human body that is generated by muscle tissue and is carried throughout the body in the bloodstream, can play a part in Alzheimer's onset and effects.
  • In tests on mice, it has become clear that irisin plays a key part in memory and learning; the removal and subsequent adding back of the hormone showed dramatic changes in memory and learning.
  • Researchers think a supplement including the hormone is not far off for those who have Alzheimer's, to slow it down or even stop it.


Irisin is a hormone that is generate by muscle tissue, specifically from physical exercise; its effects on memory were studied recently, and scientists have seen a strong connection between irisin levels and what they call "synapse and memory fails." People with Alzheimer's have lower amounts of the hormone versus healthy individuals.

"We know that physical activity is linked to better brain health as we age, and this research highlights a biological mechanism that may contribute to this beneficial effect," said Rosa Sancho of the charity Alzheimer's Research UK.

Data from study. Image source: Nature Medicine

In mice where irisin was blocked, memory and learning deficits appeared; when it was restored later, this effect reversed itself. What that means for humans is this: Physical exercise will very likely help stave off Alzheimer's. And going without it can cause its acceleration.

There already were dozens of reasons to leave that couch and get active, including research that suggests a larger belly means a shrinking brain, but this one could be a game-changer.

And for those of us who can't exercise as much because of physical limitations, there might be hope as well, in the form of irisin injections or even oral supplements.

Dementia patients visit alpaca farm as therapy. Photo credit: Morris MacMatzen / Getty Images

From the study, which was published in the January installment of Nature Medicine:

Bolstering brain FNDC5/irisin levels, either pharmacologically or through exercise, may thus constitute a novel therapeutic strategy to protect and/or repair synapse function and prevent cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease.

Further studies and peer reviews will attempt to verify the findings.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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Masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness

Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

Sexual arousal and orgasm increase the number of white blood cells in the body, making it easier to fight infection and illness.

Image by Yurchanka Siarhei on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
  • The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
  • Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
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The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

The biology of aliens: How much do we know? | Michio Kaku, ...
Videos
  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
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Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

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