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Science & Technology

International Conference Explores Aging, One Animal's Unique Heart Health

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Scientists from around the world have come to San Antonio to share the latest research on aging.

The Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies in San Antonio is hosting the American Aging Association’s 43rd Annual meeting through Monday, with more than 150 scientists expected to attend. Researchers are reporting on topics from the effects of oxidative stress on aging to how fish oil supplements affect bone quality.

UT Health Science Center Professor of Physiology Dr. Rochelle Buffenstein said one study seeks to find out why the naked mole rat has a unique ability to stave off heart disease.

"While mice and rats and humans start showing decline from ages equivalent to a human of the age of 40, mole rats' hearts stay perfectly functional at the same level as a young, healthy adult all the way until their late 20s," Buffenstein said. "That would be equivalent to a 120-year-old human not showing any signs of classic -- not cardiac disease -- but just normal cardiac aging that we know occurs in all other species."

Also scheduled for presentation at the conference are comparative biology studies on turtles that resist aging, papers on how queen bees can produce thousands of offspring throughout their 30-year life spans and whether micro-bacteria change or reduce during a person’s older years.

"Where no one ever used to even think about the fauna that lives inside us as playing a role in how we age and the fact that we get arthritis and all the other kinds of inflammation kind of phenomena. So I think that's another very exciting symposia," Buffenstein said. 

Buffenstein said modern aging research is not just about how to extend life, but taking a holistic approach to improve quality of life in all areas so people can live healthier while they are living longer.