Anti Aging Gene: The Secret to Living Longer Discovered
Scientific advances never cease to amaze us... and recently researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered what they beleive to be an anti aging gene, which is part of a family of enzymes known as sirtuins appear to extend lifespan rather dramatically in organisms like yeast, worms and flies.
According to their latest work, published in the November 28th issue of the journal Cell, sirtuin is the gene that contributes to aging in single cell organisms like yeast, as well as multiple celled organisms... like us mammals.
The findings are due to the work of a group of researchers led by biologist David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School. This research is part of a growing effort by biologists to understand how sirtuin and other agents seem to be able to control the settings on a living cell's metabolism... things like how the cell handles fats and reacts to insulin.
The latest study showed that damage in DNA (via UV rays or free radicals, for example) causes problems with the regulatory system of the cell.
Each and every cell in our bodies has as much as six feet of DNA packed inside its nucleus. This DNA carries the nearly 20,000 genetic instructions needed to operate the body.
Each cell only provides access to a handful of these genes, in effect, switching all the others off. Sirtuin normally plays a key role in keeping them turned off.
The trouble starts when sirtuin is called upon to repair DNA. Rushing to the site to effect the repair, the emergency responder protein is no longer able to act as guardian to suppress all the other genes.
So, the genes come back into action and cause nothing but mayhem.
Once the DNA repair is made the sirtuins return to their first job, and get things back in order before any permanent damage can be done.
The research suggests that this process may in fact be the fundamental key to aging... for single celled and multi celled creatures alike.
What's more, the team of researchers found that administering extra copies of the sirtuin gene or its activator improved the life span of mice by as little as 24% to as much as 46%. Mice with lower levels of the chemicals are more susceptible to DNA damage and cancers.
"What this paper actually implies is that aspects of aging may be reversible," said Dr. Sinclair. "It sounds crazy, but in principle it should be possible to restore the youthful set of genes, the patterns that are on and off."
These experiments "elegantly demonstrate" that sirtuin works in much the same way in mammals as it does in yeast, Dr. Jan Vijg of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine wrote in an accompanying commentary in Cell.
Dr. Sinclair said he agreed that the case for sirtuin's role in aging has yet to be proven "We are careful not to say this is the cause of aging, but based on everything we know it's not a bad hypothesis."
What's not yet clear if the youthful patterns of gene expression count at all.
Scientists not involved in the work, or affiliated with Sinclair's biotech company Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, are quick to point out that it's not clear that keeping gene expression young is the key to staying young.
But many agree that this research and the discovery of this potential anti aging gene could be a useful step in discovering how to slow again and age related conditions.