Researchers have recently spotted a gene that could be activated to prolong life both in terms of quantity and quality. They have demonstrated the effects of the gene activation in fruit flies which have homologues of 75 % of human genes causing diseases.
With age, everything changes: we are moulded and remoulded over time, our minds and bodies going through the cycle of transformation all the while. Age comes with consequences – a reminder that everything in this world is ephemeral. The abilities that grow inside of us eventually fade; the normal processes occuring in our bodies give way to malfunctions, or, they just proceed to a dead end. This is why ageing is associated with the inability of the body to fight diseases. Just like the trees lose their leaves at a given point, our bodies follow its own senescence. Could it be that this is averted, or, at least, delayed? Researchers of a new study claim that they discovered a gene that could be triggered to avoid the gradual deterioration of bodily functions by prolonging life. The paper was published in the journal Cell Reports.
The researchers found that fruit flies having a certain gene activated had increased lifespans by around 6 to 8 weeks. The increase, though, was not quantitative only. The scientists observed that the quality of life itself was enhanced. Those fruit flies with the activated gene lived longer, and were simultaneously healthier. If these effects were to be superimposed on humans, miracles could happen. The researchers, who wish to promote the comfortable disease-free ageing in people, are positive that if the problem of ageing is thus tackled, diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s which are associated with old age would automatically be delayed during one’s life.
The method behind the prolonged life, both in quantity and quality, entails the removal of cell wastes whose accumulation yields negative effects on the body. A certain enzyme, AMP-activated protein kinase, the AMPK, is responsible for stimulating this process of autophagy whereby the clutter is cleared out. The researchers demonstrated that as AMPK gene is activated in the nervous system, the process of autophagy was boosted in the gut of the fruit flies. When AMPK was activated in the intestines, autophagy increased in the brain.
The researchers deem the experiment on fruit flies to be promising since the insects have homologues of 75 % of the genes that are responsible for a number of diseases in humans.
The next phase would now be to carry out experiments on animals with similar physiological responses to humans.