It is believed that in the roundworm Caenorhabditis Elegans a hormone produced in response to a strict low-calorie diet, increases life expectancy. This is a way forward in the fight against age-related diseases as long as the harmful effects of this hormone on fertility are controlled.
Eating less extends the lives of many species, from yeast to primates, dogs, spiders, and cats. In addition, severe calorie restriction reduces the incidence of age-related diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and age-related muscle loss. In any case, this process has been proven in rodents and great apes, and there is a good chance that this will also be the case in humans. This drastic diet, which is on the verge of malnutrition, is difficult to follow, mainly due to psychological (irritability, reduced libido) and physiological (reduced fertility) side effects. It is therefore not advisable to do this severe regimen for the simple purpose of improving health.
The team of Hugo Aguilaniu from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Cell (LBMC) has identified in the worm Caenorhabditis Elegans a hormone produced in response to calorie restriction. This hormone, Δ7-dafachronic acid (DA), is necessary to prolong life but is also involved in the nutrition-related decline in fertility. Therefore, this finding establishes a direct link between increased longevity and reduced reproductive ability in a low-calorie diet. This paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Multiple genes involved
The researchers have also discovered the receptor in the cell nucleus through which Δ7-dafachronic acid (DA) acts. A large number of genes are activated in the presence of the hormone. In this genetic process, one set of genes causes a decrease in fertility while another slows down the aging process.
Hugo Aguilaniu hopes that he will succeed in separating these two types of reactions from each other in order to artificially trigger the protective effect against age-related diseases without the harmful effects associated with them. This may lead to anti-aging therapeutic applications, as the identified hormone and its receptor have close relatives in mammals and thus also in humans. Ultimately if these anti-aging benefits could be accomplished with the help of a medication instead of calorie restriction many old-age diseases could become a thing of the past.
This work was funded in particular by the Foundation for Medical Research.