UCLA biologists have recently released a study which shows a dramatic way to reverse aging. The process, which looks at changing the structure of mitochondria, is able to produce an effect which is both more youthful and energetic. The impact of this information could slow the process of many age related diseases, such as cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
The mitochondria, which are the cells powerhouse, determining how they grow, live and die. As people age, these controlling factors change and become more elongated and sluggish, accumulating in many different parts of the body. The cells become less effective at eliminating the damaged mitochondria and they become toxic, contributing to disease.
The study, which looked at the middle aged fruit fly, utilized a protein to break up the maturing mitochondria. This changed them back to smaller pieces. The result was fruit flies with greater energy levels and increased endurance. The similarities between fruit flies to humans on a molecular structure, combined with their short life spans, make them the ideal bridge to improving health.
The protein, Drp1, was increased to break apart the mitochondria. It was given to middle aged fruit flies, 30 days into their two month life cycle, for one week. It allowed the flies to eliminate the damaged mitochondria, leaving only healthy structures in the cell. This increased their life expectancy, on average, by 20 percent for females and 12 percent for males.
As part of the same process, Anil Rana, the study’s lead author, also ‘turned off’ the flies Atg1 gene. This showed that while Drp1 is required to return the mitochondria to a healthy structure, Atg1 is necessary to dispose of the unhealthy buildup.
David Walker, a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology, who led the team investigating the effects on the fruit flies health, reveals the dramatic impact this has on further study.
“It’s like we took middle-aged muscle tissue and rejuvenated it to youthful muscle. We actually delayed age-related health decline. And seven days of intervention was sufficient to prolong their lives and enhance their health.”
Considering the consequences of prolonged exposure to medications, there is evidence that even a short treatment could have a beneficial outcome. The development of this study could not only be an advance in years lived, but a great improvement in physical well-being.
UCLA biologists hope to pursue the discovery of pharmaceuticals which would copy the impact of Drp1. This would ultimately allow for a longer and healthy life span.
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