FRIENDS AND FITNESS ... The two keys to successful aging are friends and fitness, says gerontologist Esther Koch, who consults on Medicare and other aging advisory services through her firm Encore Management. "First and foremost is building and maintaining a social support network, which is primarily for most people in the family, but it can also be family by choice," Koch told Stanford Business Re:Think, an online publication of the Graduate School of Business. "Your spouse is your most important relationship, but you can't ignore other people in your life," Koch said. "The other thing that is key is physical exercise. Exercise is so beneficial to your physical, mental and emotional well-being. It's the best prescription for health that a doctor can give you. But the social network is really the elixir of life."
CELLS AND AGING ... Some secrets, at the cellular level, of the aging process are explored in a study recently published by Thomas Rando, a Stanford professor of neurology and neurological sciences and chief of the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System's neurology service. A chemical code scrawled on histones — the protein husks that coat DNA in every animal or plant cell — determines which genes in that cell are turned on or turned off. Rando's team identified characteristic differences in "histone signatures" between stem cells from the muscles of young mice and old mice. The team also distinguished histone-signature differences between quiescent and active stem cells in the muscles of young mice. "We've been trying to understand both how the different states a cell finds itself in can be defined by the markings on the histones surrounding its DNA and to find an objective way to define the 'age of a cell,'" said Rando, who is also director of Stanford's Glenn Laboratories for the Biology of Aging and deputy director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. The study was published June 27 in the journal Cell Reports.