There is already ample evidence to suggest that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help to fight the long-term cognitive and motor function deterioration associated with aging. It could also protect against certain neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
And so Gabriel Rigg, 17, David Dickinson, 16, and Michael Armson, 16, all Grade 11 students at Ambrae Academy in Halifax, embarked upon an investigation called "Blueberries, the elixir of healthy aging: An in vitro study of the neuroprotectant properties of fruit polyphenolics."
Fruits such as blueberries have high concentrations of chemicals and nutrients that give them the elevated anti-oxidant capacity that is believed to be most effective at combating age-related defects. To test that theory, the Nova Scotia teammates used a well-established line of Shi-Y neuronal cells to conduct four sets of in vitro tests.
In one set, pure blueberry extract was added to the Shi-Y cells. To a second, the students added hydrogen peroxide to simulate a cell-damaging agent. They added both the extract and the peroxide to the third, while the fourth acted as a control or placebo test with just Shi-Y cells.
The results? The plates containing blueberry extract showed less cell death than those with the control solution. The blueberry extract was also found to have protected the cells in plates containing hydrogen peroxide.
"We were very excited by the results," says team member Michael Armson. "Although there is nothing in our study to indicate how this would all work inside the human body, whether the antioxidants are absorbed or changed by digestion, and how that might affect their ability to protect brain cells. This will have to be the subject of further investigation."
If it all pans out, the day may come when aging baby boomers have reason to thank these three school friends from Halifax…not to mention the blueberry farmers of Nova Scotia.
Reprinted courtesy of Aventis Pasteur Limited, lead sponsor of the Aventis Biotech Challenge.