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RNA, Antiaging and how we can outsmart our biological clock

Sky’s the Limit

RNA, Anti-aging and how we can outsmart our biological clock. Dr. Konstanze Schäfer, is a biochemist and has a PhD in molecular biologist. She is currently conducting a research on a super fast RNA transport system for gen theraphy. Besides that, she has together with her partner, Michael Biedowicz founded the company A1A Artprint. A company using a completely new type of inkjet-printing with whom they have revolutionized the world of art and museum prints. In an interview she told us; why she lives a double life, what transcription factors are and how to manage to rejuvenate the biological age by 10 years.

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HOW COME YOU CHOSE SCIENCE?

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I could never decide between science or art, but in the end I chose science. I then decided for molecular biology, but quarreled with it for many years and always wondered if I should not rather make photography (laughs). I think science and art are totally similar, just in different ways.

I was living kind of a double life at that time. I even quit my daytime job as a scientist to switch to photography, but I couldn’t survive with it. I also sold pictures, but I never was a great artist. 
However, since I didn’t want to leave photography I started looking for a way how I could lead my love to an economic success.

I screened the world of photography and found that most photography artwork do not last forever. For example there is a popular method; diasec technique transitory. There are dissertations of restorers whom say that the images made in diasec process breaks down after 17 to 20 years.

Surely there will be some pictures left which stay longer by chance, but basically the durability of this procedure is limited to 20 years. And so, with my knowledge as a biochemist I developed the propensity for art photography. I founded my company A1A Artprint together with my boyfriend Michael Biedowicz.

It is a completely new inkjet method, a kind of photo paper without paper. Dye molecules are embedded in an acrylic glass layer and they can stay for eternity. They are protected from UV and ozone and you can simply wash it off. We can manufacture any type of surfaces, whether smooth or shiny.

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HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME A1A?

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We are both big Breaking Bad fans. In the series there is a carwash named A1A, where all the money laundery happens. Just we don’t launder any money or produce drugs, but we look the same

We look like we cook crystal meth, we wear the overalls and the same gas masks, I am Heisenberg, the scientist in the background, and Michael is the dealer. The only difference is we make photo prints and Michael deals with art. We always laugh so much when we put on our suits.

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RIGHT NOW YOU ARE WORKING ON A SUPER FAST RNA TRANSPORT SYSTEM FOR A GENE THERAPY. WHAT IS RNA?

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Some years ago the entire genetic material of humans got decoded. The same time diseases are becoming better elucidated at the molecular level.
 Meanwhile we know so much about the molecular pathways of disease development. Previously we treated them with drugs, primarily diseases of which engage in active metabolism. But the medicine of the future will function at the RNA level, so schedule in its operation is more at the origin of the disease and less on their symptoms.

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WHAT IS RNA?

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All information for the cells are stored in our DNA. This is read and transcribed into RNA (ribonucleic acid). This RNA is a kind of reading-off machine, which is called ribosome. This ribosome takes the RNA as a kind of template and synthesize RNA sequences corresponding to the proteins. These proteins enter the cell giving them their character.

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WHAT TYPE OF CELL AND WHICH METABOLISM? HOW OFTEN DOES THE CELL DIVIDE OR DIVIDES THEM AT ALL?

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RNA carries all the information of the synthesis of the cellular constituents. While the DNA in each cell of the body is always the same, there are large differences in the presence of different RNA’s in different cell types. For example a particular RNA in a muscle cell is often found in……but it did not hand in a nerve cell and vice versa.
 Basically, almost all diseases playing at these levels at the cell. They are either inherited or acquired errors. 
Cancer, for example built RNA, which are normally not produced in healthy cells.
 In modern therapies they are trying to destroy these incorrectly formed RNA’s. This will eventually replace chemotherapy and radiation.
To destroy these “false” RNAs you need very small RNA, called siRNA. They must be introduced from the outside into the cell. Then these two bind to the wrong RNAs and leading to their degradation .
In order to bring therapeutic RNAs in the cells of the body , it takes a transport system which is specific for a particular cell type, and highly efficient. This is currently a major challenge in science.

 

SO WE ONLY NEED TO PASS THE NEXT 10 TO 20 YEARS?

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Yes, exactly. Then there will be ways to treat cancer on the RNA level, and to refrain from radiation and chemotherapy.

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WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR IDEAS FOR YOU RESEARCH APPROACHES?

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When I go to sleep at night, my boyfriend reads novels but I love to close my eyes and start thinking or dreaming.

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AS A SCIENTIST, DO YOU DREAM ABOUT A NOBEL PRIZE?

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Maybe yes. To get a Nobel prize is great, but that happens only to a very few people and they have to work very hard and very long for this, except James D. Watson of course. He did it in 2 years and was 23 years old. To get a Nobel Prize as a scientist, is not only a great honor, but of course you get the access to many subsidies for your projects. I do believe that every scientist dreams of a Nobel Prize, but not necessarily expecting one.

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WHAT IS IT THAT DRIVES YOU AS A SCIENTIST?

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A recognition in the scientific community. Just as the athlete needs his victory, the scientist needs it’s publication in a good journal and the recognition among colleagues. You want to do something for the society, particularly in molecular biology, when it comes to medicine. The modern medicine is getting more and more comprehensively characterized by molecular biology, example; if you are working as a molecular biologist, you have automatically a medical relevance.

 The results of my thesis about the ” transcription factors ” could help to better elucidate genetic diseases in humans. As a result, people who have this disease in their families can get tested if they carry the damaged genes or not.

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YOU ARE 46 YEARS OLD BUT YOU TOLD YOU’VE GOT THE BODY OF AN 30-YEAR OLD WOMAN?

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Yes, that is what my physiotherapist says. I started with sports at an early age. Every day and every weekend. I have very low blood pressure and a very low pulse. I’m almost kind of in a state of apparent death, down-regulated. This is surely determined by the sport and my weakness for jogging and sauna as well as a bit of hereditary factors. Actually, I ‘m much too lively despite the low pulse. But the low values slow down the aging process.

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WHEN YOU ARE JOGGING DO YOU ALSO GET SO MANY GREAT IDEAS IN YOUR MIND?

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Yes, that ‘s right. But I think the good ideas while running comes from an increased metabolism and the fact that you are alone with yourself and relaxed. I always prefer to run alone.

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WHAT SPORT DID YOU DO BACK THEN?

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I went sled racing. I was as a deputy DDR champion. But then I had a serious accident. Easily said, I kind of broke my neck. I was told I may be dead at any moment. I spent a year in this state of being dead every day. My neck was broken and no-one wanted to operate it. That was not a pleasant experience. I felt very uncomfortable, ugly and awkward. Everything I wanted at 17, I did not have.

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BUT MAYBE YOU SIMPLY CAN’T DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE SLOWER THEN YOU ARE?

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Yes, sometimes I think: Oh man, can’t you do that a bit faster? I also really like to drive my car very fast. My car runs 210 if you give full throttle and have no headwind. That makes me insanely happy.

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THROUGH THIS PARTICULAR BORDERLINE EXPERIENCE, DO YOU THINK YOU ARE LESS SCARED TO DIE?

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No, I ‘m afraid of dying. I do not want to die, no way. It doesn’t mean that I go as fast all the time. There are sections on the highgway with no speed limit, but then the road must also be free. I’m not a risk driver. That may come from the sled driving where you go unprotected in 120 km/h down the track. Only with your body on the sled and without brakes.

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WHAT TIP CAN YOU GIVE NON EX PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES TO STOP THE OWN AGING-PROCESS?

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1. Sleep a lot. The body slows down during sleep and slowing the heart rate, this prevents the aging process. During the sleep, the skin is well supplied with blood.

2. Stay young by regular jogging or other exercise. Because then your body is supplied with stem cells that circulate in the blood, especially when the cycle gets going properly and the blood rushes through your body. There are statistics, people who jog regularly are much more intelligent than people who do not jog regularly. You don’t need to run a lot for that, twice a week, 30 minutes is sufficient.

3. Protect yourself against pesticides. I ‘m a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to pesticide terms and ingredients in creams. My friends always laughs at me because of that. For example I always buy my fruits and vegetables in a bio-food store. Although I know that they certainly also smuggle spattered fruits in. But the probability that you buy spattered stuff, is much lower as for example in the supermarket.

4. When it comes to skin-care products, you should always prefer creams that does not contain mineral oils, but vegetable oils. These plants include not only oil but are also rich in vitamin E and vitamin A.

5. As always, the same old story: Joy! You look as good as you feel. It is really important that you do a job that makes fun. If you can afford to make a profession of what you would do as a hobby, then you have found the best fountain of youth .

6. Go to the sauna. It also has biological matters. The body has repair mechanisms which also dissemble assembled proteins and then build them together correctly. These repair mechanisms are known as heat shock proteins .
With heat shocks you can stimulate the proteins in your body. There are scientific studies in which certain forms of cancer could be pushed back by frequent sauna sessions. A sauna visit once a week is an optimal cancer prevention.

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IS IT THE SCIENTIST WHO TALKES FOR YOU OR YOU AS A SO CALLED HYPOCHONDRIAC?

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I know that as a scientist, that all these pesticides occupy my body. I don’t think that the pesticides cause cancer directly. The body has quite a lot of repair mechanisms on the DNA level, at the protein level and at cellular level that can eliminate the malignant cells. But when your body is busy with destroying those pesticides, then there’s not enough power for your mechanism’s to get back to their actual tasks. And I believe that cancer arises indirectly by such stories. I do not know if this is proved. Cancer arises naturally by virus infection and radiation. There are many ways how these cells can degenerate. But once they are developed, they can overcome a healthy body. 
I also avoid sunscreens with titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

I’m not talking about normal titanium dioxide, but nanoparticles that are produced from it. They are nanoparticles at the nanoscale, slightly smaller than 20 nanometers. These particles can completely penetrate through your skin. According to studies, they store in the nucleus, and then put the cell simply quiet. That means, they are no longer divided and the metabolism isn’t very active, that is called senescence.

Die Grünen, just designed a law, all products containing nanoparticles must be labeled. This bill was blocked by the CDU, because the industry complained. They do not want it to be published.

 

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