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In this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Pamela Maher. Dr. Maher has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia. She was formerly an associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. In 2004, she moved to her current position as a research scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Her research has centered on understanding responses of nerve cells to oxidative stress, and how chemical compounds can modulate these responses to enhance nerve cell function and survival. Her current work is focused on using natural products such as flavonoids to maintain nerve cell function in the presence of toxic insults. Flavonoids are a diverse class of secondary metabolites found in almost all fruits and vegetables. One of the great advantages of these phytochemicals is that they are tiny molecules - small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier. This has been convincingly demonstrated in studies of rodents. For instance, when rats are fed blueberries for ten weeks, and then dissected, anthocyanins from the fruit can actually be found distributed inside the brain! Maher and her colleagues have been focusing their attention particularly on a few of these flavonoids as potential neuroprotective agents. One of these is fisetin, a flavonoid that is most highly concentrated in strawberries. We have discussed it previously on the show as a possible senolytic agent. Maher and her group have been developing more potent and more bioavailable versions of the flavonoid that might protect nerve cells and even promote learning and memory. Good stuff! The other phytochemical we’ll be discussing on the show is sterubin. Sterubin is a flavonoid found in Yerba santa, a plant that native tribes in California have long prized for its medicinal properties. When Dr. Maher screened for plant extracts that could act on toxicity pathways relevant to age-associated degenerative disease, sterubin emerged as one with broad protective effects in cell assays. To learn more about the power of flavonoids and the future of anti-aging research, please check out the interview!

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