The aging process at the cellular level can not only be stopped but also reversed. Scientists in the USA managed to bring the muscles of a 6-year-old mouse to the state of the muscles of a 60-month-old mice, which is equivalent to 40 years of rejuvenating the organs of a XNUMX-year-old. In turn, scientists from Germany rejuvenated the brain by blocking only one signaling molecule.
A team of scientists from Harvard Medical School led by prof. genetics by David Sinclair, made this discovery, as it were, on the occasion of research into intracellular signaling. It occurs through the interaction of signaling molecules. They are usually proteins that, with the help of chemical compounds in their structure, transfer data from one area of the cell to another.
As it turned out during the research, the disruption of communication between the cell nucleus and mitochondria results in accelerated aging of cells. However, this process can be reversed – in studies in a mouse model, it was found that restoring intracellular communication rejuvenates the tissue and makes it look and function in the same way as in young mice.
The aging process in the cell, discovered by our team, is somewhat reminiscent of a marriage – when it is young, it communicates without problems, but over time, when it lives in close proximity for many years, communication gradually ceases. Restoring communication, on the other hand, solves all the problems – said prof. Sinclair.
Mitochondria are among the most important cell organelles, ranging in size from 2 to 8 microns. They are the place where, as a result of the process of cellular respiration, most of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is produced in the cell, which is its source of energy. Mitochondria are also involved in cell signaling, growth and apoptosis, and the control of the entire cell life cycle.
Research by the team of prof. Sinclair’s focus was on a group of genes called sirtuins. These are the genes that code for Sir2 proteins. They take part in many continuous processes in cells, such as post-translational modification of proteins, silencing of gene transcription, activation of DNA repair mechanisms and regulation of metabolic processes. One of the basic coding genes, SIRT1, may be, according to previous studies, activated by resveratol – a chemical compound found, among others, in in grapes, red wine and some varieties of nuts.
The genome can be helped
Scientists have found a chemical that the cell can convert into NAD + that restores communication between the nucleus and mitochondria through the proper action of SIRT1. Rapid administration of this compound allows you to completely reverse the aging process; slow, i.e. after a long time, slow it down significantly and reduce its effects.
In the course of the experiment, scientists used the muscle tissue of a two-year-old mouse. Her cells were supplied with a chemical compound that was transformed into NAD +, and the indicators of insulin resistance, muscle relaxation and inflammation were checked. They indicate the age of the muscle tissue. As it turned out, after generating additional NAD +, the muscle tissue of a 2-year-old mouse did not differ in any way from that of a 6-month-old mouse. It would be like rejuvenating the muscles of a 60-year-old to the state of a 20-year-old.
By the way, the important role played by HIF-1 has come to light. This factor decomposes rapidly under normal oxygen concentration conditions. When there is less of it, it accumulates in the tissues. This happens as cells age, but also in some forms of cancer. This would explain why the risk of cancer increases with age and at the same time shows that the physiology of cancer formation is similar to that of aging. Thanks to further research, its risk should be reduced, says Dr. Ana Gomes from the team of Prof. Sinclair.
Currently, research is no longer on tissues, but on live mice. Scientists from Harvard Medical School want to see how long their lives can be after using a new way of restoring intracellular communication.
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One molecule blocks neurons
In turn, a team of scientists from the German cancer research center – Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (DKFZ) led by Dr. Any Martin-Villalba, explored another important aspect of the aging process – the decline in concentration, logical thinking and memory. These effects are caused by the decline in the number of neurons in the brain with age.
The team identified a signaling molecule in the brain of an old mouse called Dickkopf-1 or Dkk-1. Blocking its production by silencing the gene that was responsible for its creation resulted in an increase in the number of neurons. By blocking Dkk-1, we released the neural brake, resetting the performance in spatial memory to the level observed in young animals, said Dr. Martin-Villalba.
Neural stem cells are found in the hippocampus and are responsible for the formation of new neurons. Specific molecules in the immediate vicinity of these cells determine their purpose: they can remain inactive, renew themselves, or differentiate into two types of specialized brain cells: astrocytes or neurons. A signaling molecule called Wnt supports the formation of new neurons, while Dkk-1 abolishes its action.
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Older mice blocked with Dkk-1 showed almost the same performance in memory and recognition tasks as young mice, as their ability to renew and generate immature neurons in their brains was established at a level characteristic of young animals. On the other hand, young mice without Dkk-1 showed a lower susceptibility to the development of post-stress depression than mice of the same age, but with the presence of Dkk-1. This means that by causing a decrease in the amount of Dkk-1, it can also not only increase memory capacity, but also counteract depression.
Scientists say that now it will be necessary to develop a series of tests for biological Dkk-1 inhibitors and to develop methods of creating drugs that would enable their use. These would be drugs that act multilaterally – on the one hand, they would counteract the loss of memory and abilities known to the elderly, and on the other hand, they would act as an antidepressant. Due to the importance of the issue, it will probably be around 3-5 years before the first Dkk-1-blocking drugs are on the market.