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Longevity Research Project

The Waltraut Bergmann Foundation supports the on-going longevity study in the region Cilento in Italy that is conducted by the University La Sapienza di Roma and the University of California, San Diego.
The Cilento is a region located in the province of Salerno in southern Italy and has one of the world’s highest concentrations of centenarians, with an average life expectancy of 92 years for women (Italian average: 84) and 85 years for men (Italian average: 79) – similar to that in Okinawa (Japan), the most intensively investigated centenarian hotspot.  The study was designed to identify the underlying mechanisms behind a healthy and successful aging and how environmental factors and nutrition might aid in shaping a human longevity phenotype.


The researchers already made some exciting discoveries in the successfully concluded CIAO (Cilento Intitiative on Aging Outcome) pilot study. Blood biomarker analyses carried out by the diagnostic company sphingotec shows in fact that the superagers of Cilento (people with a median age of 92 years) have an extremely good microcirculation, as testified by the low level of bioactive Adrenomedullin (bio-ADM), a peptide hormone who is a regulator of vasodilation and blood vessel integrity, which both affect blood pressure and microcirculation. The perfusion of organs and muscles of the Cilento centenarians is surprisingly as efficient as that in people who were 30 years younger, possibly connecting longevity with a measurable factor.


Making longevity measurable has long been a scientific goal as it could open up the avenue to a systematic identification of factors contributing to an extended life span and in the Longevity Research Project, leveraging on the results from the CIAO Pilot study, the scientists will investigate environmental, nutrition and life style factors as well as genetic factors that may be the reason for healthy aging of the centenarians of the Cilento. One of the main objective is to investigate whether certain components of the local diet could affect the bio-ADM level. The cuisine typical to the region traditionally uses several native (and often wild) plants. Another objective is to verify whether – in high bio-ADM levels subjects that would move to Cilento - the local environment influences the levels of this microcirculation biomarker. Waltraut Bergmann foundation support the Longevity Research Project.

CIAO Pilot Study

The CIAO (Cilento Intitiative on Aging Outcome) is a pilot study conducted over a period of 6 months by researchers from the University La Sapienza of Rome and the University of California San Diego, with the support of the Waltraut Bergmann Foundation. The Scientists team carried out comprehensive health and life style assessments of two study groups that live in this region: In the first were the so-called ‘SuperAgers’ (median age 92 years), while the second was made up of younger relatives (median age 60 years, living in the same household) who are expected to live just as long because they have the same genetic background and have been exposed to the same environmental and lifestyle factors. Blood biomarker analyses for heart-function biomarker MRproANP, as well as a marker for kidney function (penKid) and bioactive Adrenomedullin (bio-ADM), were measured in all subjects enrolled. The results were compared to those of a cohort of healthy persons (median age 63.9 years), who were monitored over eight years in the earlier Malmö Prevention Project. Waltraut Bergmann foundation successfully supported the CIAO pilot study

Microcirculation

Microcirculation describes blood flow through the smallest vessels (capillaries) in the circulatory system. In these regions, oxygen and nutrients are directly delivered to cells, while metabolic debris, toxins and CO2 are winnowed out. Blood pressure and body temperature is also controlled by the microcirculation through dilation or constriction of the capillary network that penetrates muscles, organs and skin. If put end-to-end, the body’s capillaries would stretch 90,000 - 110,000 kilometers –more than twice the circumference of Earth. If placed side-by-side, they would cover an area the size of two football fields (500 - 700 m²). On average, people have around 200 - 300 capillaries / mm², but endurance athletes like runners can have up to 40 % more (300 - 500 capillaries / mm²). This contributes to better muscle perfusion, oxygen supply and performance.

Centenarian hotspots

Centenarian hotspots: Several regions have been identified by National Geographic writer Dan Buettner as longevity hotspots. They include Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and a group of Seventh-day Adventists living in Loma Linda (US, California). The Cilento, a mountainous region 150 kilometres south from Naples, is another hotspot of centenarians. Although it didn’t earn a mention in Buettner’s book on the so-called “Blue zones” of centenarians, people who live there are getting older than in Okinawa, Japan, the world's very best-studied longevity hot-spot. Life expectation of women living in the Cilento (92 years) is 8 years above the Italian average; and that of men (85 years) 6 years above.

Adrenomedullin

Adrenomedullin is a soluble peptide hormone. Mainly released by the inner layer of blood vessels (endothelial cells), its biological function is to control vasodilation, an important regulator of blood pressure and organ perfusion. In several studies involving more than 16.000 patients, the plasma level of the bioactive Adrenomedullin (bio-ADM) has been proven to predict and provide an early diagnosis for circulation dysfunction. For instance, bio-ADM blood levels rise 2-3 days before septic shock occurs. Elevated levels of bio-ADM are a specific indicator of vasodilation and leakage from microcirculatory capillaries, which in sepsis patients subsequently lead to severe hypotension, malperfusion of organs (for which the body can’t compensate by increasing the heart rate), shock and multiple organ failure. Low bio-ADM blood levels, in contrast, are a specific indicator for an intact microcirculation, ensuring good muscle and organ blood supply without any cardiovascular stress.

Sphingotec GmbH

Sphingotec GmbH (Hennigsdorf, Germany) develops innovative biomarkers for the early diagnosis, prediction and monitoring of severe medical conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, sepsis, kidney dysfunction and cancer, supporting treatment and prevention strategies. Located on the outskirts of Berlin, the company was established in 2002. Its founder Dr. Andreas Bergmann was one of the founders of B.R.A.H.M.S. AG,  which has become  part of ThermoFisher  Scientific. As the company‘s former Chief Research Officer, he was responsible for the devel opment of the “gold standard” sepsis biomarker Procalcitonin (B.R.A.H.M.S. PCT™).


Cilento

Cilento is a region in the southern part of Italy, just below Salerno and the Amalfi Coast. The region maintain a strong Greek heritage and was never fully conquered by the romans. While famous for its blue see, its gorgeus small town and villages, its Greek ruins and its good food, Cilento is also the homeland of the Mediterrean Diet and the place where Ancel Keys, the first scientist to study the benefit of this diet, decided to live. In the inner land, far away from the touristic coastal cities, Cilento is still untouched by modern civilization and the lifestyle is the same as that of 70 years ago, with people eating their own cultivated food, tilling the soil and leaving an existence of practical and small things, where internet never arrived. Cilento is another hotspot of centenarians. Life expectation of women living in the Cilento (92 years) is 8 years above the Italian average; and that of men (85 years) 6 years above.