Study Finds That Running Increases the Lifespan of Brain Damaged Mice

A recent study published in the journal Cell Reports stated that running for physical exercise could help repair some types of brain damage.

The discovery was made as a result of basic research out of the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa.

The study emphasized how important basic research is. It consisted of genetically modified mice that were given wheels to run on.

They had genetically engineered to have smaller than average cerebellums. They had difficulty with balance and walking and lived only 25 to 40 days.

But, when the mice were allowed to run on wheels or freely, they lived for more than twelve months, a pretty typical lifespan. They also gained more weight and had better balance than mice that did not run. If researchers removed the running wheel, the symptoms would reappear.

The study found that running would cause the body to produce a molecule called VGF growth factor. This molecule helps to heal the protective coating around nerve fibers.

The implications for this research has a wide reach, including multiple sclerosis and strokes.

Although scientists know exercise is beneficial, exactly how it works is unknown. The discovery involving the VGF growth factor is nail down why running proves beneficial in mice.

The researchers found that the mice who ran had significantly more insulation around neurons, and subsequently made the neurons work better.

The discovery involving the benefits of running on the mice was serendipitous. The introduction of running wheels took the research in a new direction. The scientists simply followed the leads that presented themselves to them.

PhD student Matias Alvarez-Saavedra was lead author of the study. It was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Because of the implications for stroke and multiple sclerosis, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery has given funding to the researchers to continue studying the VGF growth factor.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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