Researchers from Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem have reported their discovery of a group of compounds that continually promote cell renewal, thereby capable of helping to keep age-related diseases at bay.
A lot has been achieved to improve life expectancy across the world. An average person lives longer today than was the case in the past.
While people mostly live longer now, a major challenge that persists is how to ensure good health as well. There is usually a decline in health as people get older. Researchers have been trying to find a way to deal with this with minimal success.
The molecule identified in this study can help to fix damaged cell components. This may aid in preserving tissue function and reducing the risk of age-related disorders.
The research, which was published in Autophagy, was led by Professor Einav Gross and Professor Shmuel Ben-Sasson.
Failing cell mechanism
Researchers say the reduced efficiency of the quality-control mechanism in cells contributes greatly to problems in aging tissues. This leads to a buildup of damaged mitochondria.
Sometimes called the powerhouses of the cell, mitochondria are organelles that help to turn energy from food into a form that a cell can use.
“They can be compared to tiny electric batteries that help cells function properly,” said Gross, while describing mitochondria. “Although these ‘batteries’ wear out constantly, our cells have a sophisticated mechanism that removes defective mitochondria and replaces them with new ones.”
A problem is that this mechanism becomes less efficient at what it does with age. As a result, cell dysfunction and tissue activity decline kick in.
The reduced effectiveness of this quality-control mechanism is implicated in the incidence of multiple age-related diseases, including heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, sarcopenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Cases of these disorders are rising.
Gross and Ben-Sasson’s new technology – developed at HU – was used to make compounds that can be used to treat certain diseases that currently have no cure. The group of molecules identified in this study displayed an ability to constantly renew cell vitality.
The researchers studied the effect that different therapies have on life span as well as on the quality of life. And they observed that the molecules have the potential to protect cells of humans and organisms from damage.
The compounds are easy to use. People can conveniently take them via the oral route.
“In the future, we hope we will be able to significantly delay the development of many age-related diseases and improve people’s quality of life,” Ben-Sasson said.
Already, the researchers have created a startup called Vitalunga – in collaboration with HU’s tech transfer company Yissum – to help make the new molecule available to patients. The startup is working at the moment to develop the drug.
Yissum CEO Itzik Goldwaser noted that findings in this study hold great value for the world’s aging population. He stated that Vitalunga is inching closer to easing the burden of age-related diseases as it progresses toward pre-clinical studies.