It has been always assumed that only some genes were responsible for aging. However aging may also be related to our resistance to bacteria according to a new study. In several models, antibiotics suppressed the link between certain genes and aging.
What causes our cells to age?
Researchers have long believed that this phenomenon is linked to certain genes. A study published in iScience challenges that assumption. “These genes are thought to control aging, in worms, mice and humans,” says Edward Giniger, one of the authors of the new research. We were shocked to find that only 30 percent of them are directly involved in aging.”
An unexpected discovery
The researcher and his team came to this conclusion by chance: they were conducting research into the aging of Drosophila, also known as fruit flies. They had previously discovered that an overactive immune system can break down neurons and lead to age-related brain disorders. To test their hypothesis, they administered antibiotics to a group of newborn fruit flies. The scientists assumed that they would have no effect on their development and survival.
The results proved them wrong: the flies that took the antibiotics lived an average of six days longer than those that did not. “That’s a big age difference for the flies,” says co-author Arvind Kumar Shukla. In humans, it’s equivalent to a gain of about 20 years of life.” Through extensive genetic analysis, they found that antibiotics alter the role of certain genes in aging. “At first, we found these results hard to believe,” he continues. Many of these genes are classic markers of aging.” His study shows that their activity is actually related to the presence of certain bacteria and not to aging.
Better understanding of genes to better fight aging
In another experiment, the researchers allowed flies to grow in a completely sterile environment, i.e. in the total absence of bacteria, without using antibiotics: The observation was the same. In Drosophila, this means that the organism’s activity towards bacteria has an impact on aging. The researchers plan to continue their work to identify the genes that are actually involved in this process. “If we want to fight aging, we need to know exactly which genes regulate the clock,” Dr. Giniger concludes.
NB. Taking antibiotics to reverse aging is not a good idea as this could lead to the development of lethal resistant bacteria.