Science Finding May Allow To Slow Down Aging
It may be possible to slow down aging process in humans one day as scientists now can control aging in worms. Researchers have found certain switches in worms that can turn on or off aging genes. This may allow scientists to slow down aging in humans one day.
Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine studied aging process in Caenorhabditis elegans, which are roundworms with 1 millimeter of length. The worm has a very simple body and genetic structure with a very small number of genes, which makes it easier for scientists to examine it. These worms usually live not more than two weeks.
It is known that body ages because there are many factors influencing human cellular DNA, such as smoking, disease, sun's ultraviolet rays, and the most important free radicals, which are chemically reactive molecules produced when cells are making energy. Apart from these factors, there are also genes that signal the start of aging process.
In this study researchers tried to understand how the aging genes work and tried to control them. Researchers examined 20000 genes in worms from the time when worms were 3 days old to their age of 18 days. Three days of age in worms is equivalent to 20 years in humans, 18 days is equivalent to 85 human years.
While aging, worms were found to have some 1200 genes changed: some were switched off, some others on. Most of changed genes are being controlled by transcription factor coming from elt3 gene. During the period of study researchers noticed that elt3 gene slowed down and its transcription factors were weakened.
Elt3 gene was later found to be controlled by elt5 and elt6 genes, so when researchers blocked these two genes, they found elt3 gene working properly. Researchers were able to keep the elt3 gene on, and the worms lived a week longer than they normally do.
"The take-home message is that aging can be slowed and managed by manipulating signaling circuits within cells," said Marc Tatar, PhD, a professor of biology and medicine at Brown University who was not involved in the research. "This is a new and potentially powerful circuit that has just been discovered for doing that. It's a new way to think about how to slow the aging process."