UCLA biologists have identified a gene that can slow the aging process throughout the entire body when activated remotely in key organ systems.
Working with fruit flies, the life scientists activated a gene called AMPK that is a key energy sensor in cells; it gets activated when cellular energy levels are low.
Increasing the amount of AMPK in fruit flies? intestines increased their lifespans by about 30 percent to roughly eight weeks from the typical six weeks and the flies stayed healthier longer as well.
Stem Cell 100TM and Stem Cell 100+TM both contain several compounds that activate AMPK. They also act on a number of additional anti-aging pathways which allowed us to double fruit fly lifespan as well as greatly increase their healthspan (the length of time they were healthy and active).
The research, published in the open-source journal Cell Reports, could have important implications for delaying aging and disease in humans, said David Walker, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and senior author of the research.
?We have shown that when we activate the gene in the intestine or the nervous system, we see the aging process is slowed beyond the organ system in which the gene is activated,? Walker said.
Walker said that the findings are important because extending the healthy life of humans would presumably require protecting many of the body?s organ systems from the ravages of aging, but delivering anti-aging treatments to the brain or other key organs could prove technically difficult. The study suggests that activating AMPK in a more accessible organ such as the intestine, for example, could ultimately slow the aging process throughout the entire body, including the brain.
Humans have AMPK, but it is usually not activated at a high level, Walker said.
?The ultimate aim of our research is to promote healthy aging in people.?
The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is a good model for studying aging in humans because scientists have identified all of the fruit fly?s genes and know how to switch individual genes on and off. The biologists studied approximately 100,000 of them over the course of the study.
Lead author Matthew Ulgherait, who conducted the research in Walker?s laboratory as a doctoral student, focused on a cellular process called autophagy, which enables cells to degrade and discard old, damaged cellular components. By getting rid of that ?cellular garbage? before it damages cells, autophagy protects against aging, and AMPK has been shown previously to activate this process.
Ulgherait studied whether activating AMPK in the flies led to autophagy occurring at a greater rate than usual.
?A really interesting finding was when Matt activated AMPK in the nervous system, he saw evidence of increased levels of autophagy in not only the brain, but also in the intestine,? said Walker, a faculty member in the UCLA College. ?And vice versa: Activating AMPK in the intestine produced increased levels of autophagy in the brain and perhaps elsewhere, too.?
?Matt moved beyond correlation and established causality,? he said. ?He showed that the activation of autophagy was both necessary to see the anti-aging effects and sufficient; that he could bypass AMPK and directly target autophagy.?
In research published last year, Walker and his colleagues identified another gene, called parkin, which delayed the onset of aging and extended the healthy life span of fruit flies.