Scientists at Mount Desert Island (MDI) Biological Laboratory have succeeded in identifying genetic mechanisms of aging, with the discoveries potentially capable of leading to new drugs for promoting longevity.
For many years, researchers have been on a quest for therapies that can increase healthy lifespan in humans. Research into ways to promote longevity kicked into high gear following the finding in the 1990s that a single gene mutation in worm led to a dramatic increase in its lifespan.
Molecular biology researchers have been trying to unravel the genetic mechanisms having a link to the aging process. But they have found them harder to work out than they originally thought it might be.
MDI Biological Laboratory researchers Jarod Rollins, Ph.D., and Aric Rogers, Ph.D., have now described in a paper published in Life Science Alliance the mechanisms that regulate aging post-transcriptionally.
The discoveries, which are the results of five-year research by these scientists, could help in creating treatments that enhance a long life.
“Because it identifies new potential drug targets in the form of the post-transcriptional mechanisms governing longevity, this research will be hugely important in screening for new therapies to extend healthy human lifespan,” said MDI Biological Laboratory President Hermann Haller, M.D.
Rollins and Rogers carried out the research using C. elegans. This worm model shares genetic similarity with humans and, as such, is commonly used in aging research.
Developing DR mimetics
Scientists have taken an interest in dietary restriction (DR) as a means of prolonging a healthy lifespan. There is research showing this practice, which entails reducing calorie intake without suffering malnutrition, helpful for preventing age-related disorders and boosting longevity.
However, dietary or caloric restriction is not easy to practice. There are also some side effects that could come with it, including loss of energy and increased cold sensitivity.
Researchers have, therefore, been trying to develop DR mimetics – drugs mimicking DR’s effects. The current work could potentially lead to the development of more potent DR mimetics.
Rollins and Rogers made use of bioinformatics methods in their study. They compared the genes of worms given normal diets against those of worms on dietary restriction.