Haims column: Pregnancy and the relation to longevity and bone health
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series summarizing research presented at the fourth annual Vail Scientific Summit, held Aug. 19-21. The next installment will be published Tuesday, Oct. 2.
The relationship between fertility and longevity has been studied extensively for quite some time. However, the relationship remains unclear.
Some research indicates that women who have experienced more pregnancies had elevated levels of oxidative damage — an imbalance between the levels of free radical cells and the body’s antioxidant defenses. Conversely, other research suggests that perhaps child birth revitalizes the body and with the more children a woman births, longevity occurs.
Apparently, pregnancy and its effects on women’s longevity is not so cut and dried.
I have found this disparity interesting and perplexing. As I try to provide high level information and education that promotes longevity, I have shied away from addressing this subject matter as it is extremely complex, and the science behind it offers many conflicting conclusions.
Last month while attending the fourth annual Vail Scientific Summit presented by the Steadman Philippon Research Institute (SPRI), I changed my mind.
The speakers who addressed the topics of aging and the relation between fetus and mothers during pregnancy were an impressive group of people. Listening to them speak about their research was abstruse, and I quickly realized I was the most uneducated person in the room. However, I was able to understand the high-level concepts and I feel compelled to share — as best I can — the exciting work they are doing.
Since 2015, Vail has had one of the world’s leading regenerative medicine scientists working at SPRI, Dr. Johnny Huard. Throughout his career, he has made discoveries that are transforming our understanding of the aging process — at the cellular level. His collaborative work with the Steadman Clinic has proven to greatly aid the orthopedic surgeons accelerate the healing process of their patients.
Dr. Huard’s presentation was awe inspiring. His presentation, “Mother and Fetus Interaction During Pregnancy,” piqued my interest, and I questioned why a scientist who works with orthopedics would be addressing pregnancy.
As I listened and took notes, it quickly became apparent to me why Huard was researching the interactions between mother and fetus — cellular rejuvenation. He explained that in studies where a young mouse was attached and shared blood with an older mouse (called parabiosis), scientists had found that the older mouse had been rejuvenated. The young blood and stem cells provided by the younger mouse (not fetus) showed remarkable results. Within muscles, tissue, bone, heart and other organs, including the brain of the older mouse, new and rejuvenated life was present.
Huard explained that by studying the parabiotic pairing between a human mother and fetus, he was gaining a better understanding of a possible reason for women often living longer than men. This new insight into human biology may lead to a paradigm shift in the belief that childbearing is energetically expensive for women and likely increases their risk of osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
New research is showing that cells from the fetus are being found within the mother — proving the fetus shares cells with the mother thus promoting the rejuvenating processes. Dr. Huard elaborated on this by giving three compelling examples.
His first example explained how doctors who specialize in spina bifida at a Houston fetal surgery department have studied the scar tissue of women who have had surgical procedures to repair the spinal cord of the fetus within the womb.
What doctors have found is that after pregnancy, the women no longer had scars. This lends credibility to the thought that the fetus may have significantly assisted in the skin healing processes. With such profound evidence, the doctors are now studying biopsies of the scar tissue and studying the chromosomes contained within.
Scientists at SPRI are studying pregnancy to identify biological factors that they may be able to use to delay aging and promote the healing of bone and tissue. This is truly incredible and ground-breaking work.
Please look for next week’s article where I will further share about Huard’s work related to pregnancy and delve into how this relates to SPRI’s research of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapies that are enabling the Steadman Clinic and SPRI to be at the forefront of regenerative medicine.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Aspen and the surrounding areas. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.