According to Andrzej Bartke, PhD, professor of internal medicine and medical microbiology at Southern Illinois University of Medicine, environmental effects can affect one’s longevity—to the point that it could prolong or shorten a lifespan and contribute to the aging process.
Bartke is a world renowned expert on mammalian aging. He received the Southern Illinois University of Medicine’s largest federal grant in 2009. He and a team from Ohio University were awarded $8.6 million over five years to study factors affecting longevity and aging. The team received a two-year grant from the National Institute of Aging. Approximately $226,848 will be used to fund research on environmental temperature and its effects on longevity.
Whether temperature can have a direct impact on the lifespan or long-term health of an individual is the basis of Bartke’s study and the reason why he was awarded the NIA grant. Over the next two years, Bartke and his team will conduct the study on a subject familiar to them: The Ames dwarf mouse.
Bartke’s studies have led him to believe that a higher environmental temperature will decrease the lifespans of his long-lived animal subjects. According to Bartke, cooler temperatures could potentially delay aging.
Also under discussion in the study is brown fat, which is found in most mammals, including mice. Brown fat cells burn energy and produce heat quickly and were assumed to disappear as humans’ age. According to Bartke’s study, brown fat is delivered into the blood vessels and is triggered when exposed to cold temperatures. This results in burning fat, which is good for the human body.
“SIU Scientist Examining Environmental Effects on Longevity,” Southern Illinois University School of Medicine website, August 22, 2016; http://www.siumed.edu/news/ReleasesFY17/GRANT_BartkeThermal_8-22-16.html.