Who knew the secret to eternal youth could have been hiding in bread-rising yeast all this time? A team of researchers from Japan and New Zealand has found a way to double the lifespan of yeast by stabilizing a genetic sequence known as ribosomal DNA (rDNA). In a new study, published in the scientific journal Current Biology, the researchers say that doing the same thing to rDNA genes in humans could stop or slow aging for people too.
Dr. Austen Ganley, senior lecturer in genetics and evolution in the Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences
The researchers from the New Zealand Massey University and the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima, Japan set out to study the Sir2 protein, which was previously found to extend the lifespan of yeast. Eventually Austen Ganley, a Massey University geneticist, and his colleagues discovered that the Sir2 had a stabilizing effect on the yeast’s rDNA. After making the discovery, the team artificially reproduced Sir2’s stabilizing effect, proving its anti-aging potential.
Ribosomal DNA is an important key to cell division, but it can be easily damaged by radiation and normal chemical reactions in the body. At the same time, research has proven that cell division is important to keep your body growing and healing, whilst damaged cells that no longer split are linked to aging.
The research is significant because humans and yeast share very similar rDNA genes. Dr Takehiko Kobayashi, who lead the international study, originally hypothesized the connection between rDNA instability and aging five years ago, but until now had no research to back up his theory.
The researchers say the next goal will be to introduce the same stabilizing rDNA effects in human cells, which are more difficult to work with than yeast. Simply introducing Sir2 into human genes does not do the same job, so the researchers will first have to discover the gene that stabilizes human rDNA and then find a way to artificially activate it.