The following article, Hungarian Scientists Discover Key To Aging, Extend Worm Lifespan By 30%, was first published on Flag And Cross.
The elusive key to aging – and a way to potentially slow or even halt the process – may finally have been discovered.
Hungarian scientists have uncovered elements that, when very active, can destabilize our genetic codes and cause aging.
But the research team also found a way to control these elements which, in ground-breaking experiments, increased the lifespan of worms by up to a third.
The research team behind the futuristic study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, hopes that in better understanding our DNA and the pathways that control it, avenues to extend our lifespans may become possible in the near future.
Researchers Dr. Ádám Sturm and Dr. Tibor Vellai, from Eötvös Loránd University in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, recently focused their minds on ‘transposable elements’ (TEs) – parts of our DNA that can move around in our genetic code.
When these TEs move too much, the researchers found, they destabilize the genetic code and cause aging.
The study team identified a specific process, called the ‘Piwi-piRNA pathway’, that helps to control these TEs.
Inside the worms, the reinforced piwi-piRNA pathway lights up green, which enabled them to live longer by 30%. (Sturm, Á / DBS via SWNS)
The researchers have seen this pathway at work in certain cells that don’t age, such as cancer stem cells and the enigmatic Turritopsis dohrnii – commonly known as the ‘immortal jellyfish’.
Though these jellyfish can still be killed by predators or die by other means, their ability to switch back and forth between life stages in response to stress means that, in theory, they could potentially live forever.
In an experiment, Dr. Sturm and Dr. Vellai strengthened this pathway in a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans – which incredibly increased the worm’s lifespan by up to 30 percent.
In their previous work, Dr. Sturm and Dr. Vellai have theorized about the profound relationship between the Piwi-piRNA system and the intriguing concept of biological immortality.
This latest study, however, has finally produced experimental proof that controlling the activity of TEs can extend lifespan, thereby indicating that these mobile DNA elements play a crucial role in the aging process.
The researchers used techniques to ‘downregulate’ or quieten down the activity of these TEs.
When they did this to specific TEs in worms, they showed signs of aging slower.
Also, when multiple TEs were controlled simultaneously, the lifespan-extending effects were found to multiply.
Dr. Sturm explained: “In our lifespan [experiments], by merely downregulating TEs or somatically overexpressing the Piwi-piRNA pathway elements, we observed a statistically significant lifespan advantage.”
“This opens the door to a myriad of potential applications in the world of medicine and biology,” he excitedly added.
The researchers also found epigenetic changes – changes in the way genes work – in the DNA of these worms as they aged – specifically in the TEs.
These changes, known as DNA N6-adenine methylation, were observed to increase TE transcription and jumping as the animal aged.
The researchers concluded by emphasizing the potentially life-altering – or life-extending – consequences of their latest study, saying it could lead to ways to extend life and improve health in later years.
On the other potential benefits of the study, Dr Vellai added: “This epigenetic modification may pave the way for a method to determine age from DNA, providing an accurate biological clock.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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