Pulse 132: Purpose Is Important for Health and Well-Being

16 December 2019
Giulio Prisco

Compass

A recent study by psychiatrists and neuroscientists at UC San Diego School of Medicine has found that the presence of and search for meaning in life are important for health and well-being.

"Many think about the meaning and purpose in life from a philosophical perspective, but meaning in life is associated with better health, wellness and perhaps longevity," said senior author Dilip V. Jeste. "Those with meaning in life are happier and healthier than those without it."

An interesting finding is that the need for meaning is stronger in people younger than 30 and older than 60. "After age 60, things begin to change,” added Jeste. "People retire from their job and start to lose their identity. They start to develop health issues and some of their friends and family begin to pass away. They start searching for the meaning in life again because the meaning they once had has changed."

"The medical field is beginning to recognize that meaning in life is a clinically relevant and potentially modifiable factor, which can be targeted to enhance the well-being and functioning of patients," added Awais Aftab, MD, first author of the study. "We anticipate that our findings will serve as building blocks for the development of new interventions for patients searching for purpose."

Nano-Drills Target Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Researchers at Rice University, Texas A&M University, Biola University, and Durham University have shown that motorized molecules are effective at killing antibiotic-resistant microbes within minutes. They were developed at Rice.

A study published in ACS Nano shows that the motorized molecules act as molecular drills. And they can target and destroy deadly bacteria that have evolved resistance to nearly all antibiotics. In some cases, the drills make the antibiotics effective once again.

Opposite Processes at Work in Cancer and Lupus

Yale scientists have found that the lack of a molecular regulator can cause damaging immune system attacks on skin and organs. These symptoms are hallmarks of the autoimmune disease lupus.

The discovery, published in Science Translational Medicine, is related to a known cancer immunotherapy approach. Blocking a similar regulator of the immune system can unleash the body's natural defenses against several forms of cancer.

This seems to confirm that cancer and lupus are opposite sides of the same molecular coin. Too much of a natural molecular process can cause lupus, and too little can cause cancer.

Protein Protects Worms Against Aging

Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have shown that worms live longer lives if they produce excess levels of a protein called p62. This protein recognizes toxic cell proteins that should be destroyed.

The discovery was published in Nature Communications. It could help uncover treatments for age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. These diseases are often caused by accumulation of misfolded proteins.

Nanoparticles Predict Heart Attacks and Strokes

Scientists at University of Southern California have developed nanoparticles that detect unstable calcifications, which can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

A research paper published in Journal of Materials Chemistry B describes the nanoparticle, known as a micelle. It attaches itself and lights up calcification to permit acquiring clean images of smaller blockages that are prone to rupture.

The findings may allow doctors to know when plaque on the walls of blood vessels becomes dangerous.

Depletion of Protein Drives Cellular Aging

Researchers at Institut Pasteur and CNRS have identified a key protein associated with aging.

The paper was published in Nature Communications. In it, the researchers show that progressive depletion of a protein called CSB drives proliferating cells into irreversible aging. Moreover, such depletion is a very early trigger of cellular aging, or senescence. CSB is known to be involved in a disease that causes accelerated aging.

According to the researchers, the findings demonstrate an important link between accelerated aging and normal aging. The findings also suggest that CSB depletion is a key driver of cellular aging.

New CRISPR for Safer and Efficient Gene Editing

Scientists led by Osaka University have described a new gene editing approach. It could bring us closer to eliminating diseases caused by faults in our DNA.

Most modern gene editing techniques rely on CRISPR technology. CRISPR comes in two flavors known as Class 1 and Class 2. They are distinguished by the helper proteins needed to cut the DNA.

Class 1 CRISPR is based on the Cas3 protein. A research paper published in Nature Communications suggests that Class 1 CRISPR could offer a more efficient and safer alternative to Class 2 systems. Class 2 is currently used in most gene editing approaches.

Sports Promote Mental Health

Researchers at Northwestern University have shown that athletes have healthier brains than non-athletes. This includes athletes across a variety of sports, such as football, soccer, and hockey.

A study published in Sports Health describes the findings. According to the researchers, commitment to physical activity is related to a quieter and healthier nervous system, which helps with handling problems.

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