Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute have gotten closer to understanding the process that leads to aging in humans and other vertebrates. According to their results, there are two genes that balance each other in order for cells to function normally. The scientists will continue their work in order to find practical results for their research.
Two Genes, One Equilibrium
Experiments performed on zebra fish directed researchers toward two genes that seem to cause early aging if their balance is disrupted.
The first one, called spns1, induces premature aging in zebra fish and other vertebrates when disrupted. The second one, called atp6v0ca, intervenes in these cases and stops the process. The results of this balance are impressive.
“We found that the dual defects did indeed counteract senescence during development and extended the animal’s survival and life span,” noted TSRI Associate Professor Shuji Kishi.
Having observed this phenomenon, scientists were curious to understand the exact mechanism that guides the functioning of these genes as well as their role in the case of diseases related to early aging.
Although very small, these particular genes are very important for the entire functioning of the organism. Spns1 is involved in a process called autophagy, which allows cells to move unwanted material in a structure called lysosome.
When this process is affected for various reasons, abnormal senescence or aging occurs, both in embryos and individuals that exist independently. In order for this phenomenon not to occur, it is necessary for the other gene, atp6v0ca, to have a concurrent disruption. The balance of the two genes thus seems to be crucial for preventing early aging.
Considering the discovery, scientists are now looking for ways to influence this equilibrium in order to treat certain diseases such as Pompe disease, which is characterized by muscle weakness. Patients suffering from other degenerative diseases may benefit as well, as a better understanding of the phenomenon may reveal new answers.
Moreover, the scientists are interested in identifying new genes involved in the aging process. This will reduce the amount of time needed to study aging, while also helping develop better solutions to expand life span.
The Scripps Research Institute
The Scripps Research Institute or TSRI is a nonprofit and independent organization dedicated to biomedical research, being the biggest of its kind in the entire world. It is renowned for developing new treatments for severe ailments such as cancer, arthritis, or hemophilia. Its team includes two Nobel prize laureates among its staff of 2,500. The institute’s graduate program is among the top 10 programs in the Unites States.
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