The fountain of youth: scientists manage to increase the useful life of some cells by 82%

Exercise is key to reducing the effects of aging.

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A group of Scientists are developing a solution that slows cell deterioration in order to slow down aging.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego are using the synthetic biology to engineer a solution that prevents cells from reaching normal levels of deteriorationro associated with aging.

The authors of the new research explain that all cells, including yeast, plant, animal, and human cells, contain gene regulatory circuits which are responsible for many physiological functions, including aging.

"These genetic circuits can function like our household electrical circuits that control things like appliances and cars,” says Professor Nan Hao, from the Department of Molecular Biology in the School of Biological Sciences, lead author of the study and co-director of the Institute for Synthetic Biology at UC San Diego.

Control of a central circuit

However, the UC San Diego group discovered that, under the control of a central genetic regulatory circuit, cells do not necessarily age in the same way. The UC San Diego team envisioned a “smart aging process” that prolongs cell longevity by alternating deterioration from one aging mechanism to another.

The researchers genetically modified the circuitry that controls cell aging. Instead of working normally like a toggle switch, they created a negative feedback loop to stop the aging process. The rewired circuit works like a clock-like device, called a gene oscillator.which encourages the cell to alternate periodically between two damaging “aged” states, avoiding prolonged stay in either of them and thus slowing down cell degeneration.

These advances allowed dramatically prolong cell lifesetting a new record for prolonging life through genetic and chemical interventions.

During their research, the team studied Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells as a model of human cell aging. They developed and used microfluidics and time-lapse microscopy to follow aging processes throughout the life of the cell.

In the current study, synthetically rewired and aged yeast cells under the direction of the synthetic oscillator device resulted in an 82% increase in lifespan compared to aged control cells under normal circumstances. The results revealed "the most pronounced lifespan prolongation in yeast that we have observed with genetic perturbations," they noted.

The new research provides evidence that it is possible to slow down the ticking of the aging clock actively preventing cells from committing to a predestined trajectory of decline and death, and clock-like gene oscillators could be a universal system for achieving this.

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