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A Positive Outlook Promotes Healthy Aging

3 November 2020
Giulio Prisco


Psychologists have found that people who feel enthusiastic and cheerful are less likely to experience memory decline as they age. Psychologists call this "positive affect." The findings are published in Psychological Science. And they add to a growing body of research on positive affect's role in healthy aging.

The psychologists analyzed data from 991 middle-aged and older U.S. adults. They participated in national studies conducted during three time periods: 1995 to 1996, 2004 to 2006, and 2013 to 2014. The psychologists examined the association between positive affect and memory decline. And they accounted for age, gender, education, depression, negative affect, and extraversion.

"Our findings showed that memory declined with age," said senior author Claudia Haase, an associate professor at Northwestern University, in a press release issued by Association for Psychological Science. "However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade," added lead author Emily Hittner, a PhD graduate of Northwestern University.

This is good news for those people who tend to feel enthusiastic and cheerful. But what about other people? One could think that this is a basic temperamental trait that can’t be "fixed."

But I think a positive outlook can be encouraged and fostered. That certainly seems to be the case for children, and probably also for adults to a more limited degree. This would have an important positive impact on healthy aging.

Ultra-fast Radiation to Treat Cancer Better

Scientists at UC Irvine and Lausanne University Hospital are developing ways to treat cancer without debilitating side effects. A research paper is published in Clinical Cancer Research. It reports that the scientists used an ultra-high dose rate of “Flash” radiation therapy (Flash-RT) to eliminate brain tumors in mice.

The new therapy bypasses key side effects usually caused by cranial irradiation. Traditional radiation therapy exposes a tumor and nearby normal tissue to radiation for several minutes at a time. But Flash-RT allows delivery of the same dose in only tenths of seconds. This significantly decreases side effects.

Flash-RT has also been used to treat lung, skin, and intestinal cancers. The scientists think that, in 10 years, Flash-RT may become a widespread option for radiotherapy patients worldwide.

Exercise Boosts Body's Ability to Inhibit Cancer

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have found a likely explanation of why exercise helps slow down cancer growth in mice. There are many indications that physical activity activates the immune system and thereby bolsters the body's ability to prevent and inhibit cancer growth. But how this works in detail is unknown.

Now a new study is published in eLife. It indicates that physical activity changes the metabolism of cytotoxic T cells. These are the immune system’s cells that kill cancer cells. And this change in metabolism improves their ability to attack cancer cells.

Exercise affects the production of several molecules and metabolites that activate cancer-fighting immune cells and thereby inhibit cancer growth. The researchers are persuaded that these research results could inform the development of new immunotherapies against cancer.

Cells From COVID-19 Patients May Protect Others

Scientists led by Children's National Hospital have found that immune T cells, taken from the blood of people who recovered from a COVID-19 infection, can help treat other COVID-19 patients.

A research paper is published in Blood. It shows that these T cells can be successfully multiplied in the lab. And they maintain the ability to effectively target proteins that are key to the virus's function.

The scientists are persuaded that this can be an effective way to protect vulnerable people with compromised immune systems from COVID-19. And they are seeking approval from the U.S. FDA for a clinical trial. In the trial, COVID-19-specific T-cells would be used to boost the immune response in patients with compromised immune systems.

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