Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest (ELTE) geneticists Tibor Vellai and Ádám Sturm have taken a major step towards understanding aging. Their research suggests that the mobile parts of DNA, or transposable elements, move around and destabilize our genetic code too much, which could be the reason for aging.
Scientists have previously identified a specific process, the Piwi-piRNA pathway, that helps regulate these transposable elements and protects against them.
It is found in cells or organisms that do not age, such as cancer stem cells.
When ELTE researchers switched on this protection in the worms, the worm lived significantly longer. The Hungarian geneticists’ findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. As they wrote, cells inside the worms containing the introduced piwi-piRNA defence system glow green, which is used to check whether the defense system has been successfully introduced. Worms with a functioning piwi-piRNA defense against transposable elements live 30 percent longer.
Ádám Sturm, a researcher at the ELTE Department of Genetics, and Tibor Vellai’s paper provides experimental evidence to support their theory. Their research showed that regulating the activity of transposable elements can indeed extend life span, suggesting that these mobile DNA elements may play a crucial role in the aging process.
The researchers used different techniques to reduce the activity of transposable elements. This caused the worms to show signs of aging more slowly. In fact, when they were able to reduce the activity of several transposable elements at the same time, the worms’ life span increased even further.
“In our life span studies, we achieved statistically significant increases in life span simply by down-regulating transposable elements or by up-regulating Piwi-piRNA.
This opens the door to many potential applications of the method in the world of medicine and biology,” Sturm was quoted in the release.
“This epigenetic modification is very exciting not only because of the discovery of its potential role in aging, but it may also pave the way for a method to determine age from DNA, which may even play an important role in forensic science in the future,” said Vellai, emphasizing the importance of the discovery.
Via: MTI; Featured image: Pixabay