Kiss wrinkles, fading eyesight and crumbling knees goodbye – aging could soon become a thing of the past. Well, not quite, but biologists have discovered a gene that really could actually slow aging. Discovered while conducting studies on fruit flies, the mechanism boosts the body’s ability to houseclean the cellular trash that causes aging disorders – which could spell not only a longer life, but a healthier old age.
A team of scientists at UCLA led by grad student Mathew Ulgherait is working on the gene, known as AMPK, to figure out just how it helps delay aging. By activating the gene, the fruit flies in the study actually lived a third longer than normal. But not only did they live longer lives, they lived healthier lives, too. So not only could the gene potentially add years to the human life, but they would be healthy years.
Scientists have known for a while that calorie restriction prolong people’s lives and part of that is due to a gene called Sirtuin 1, which is activated when calories are restricted. It appears that AMPK does the same thing, jumping into action when food energy is limited.
When the scientists activated AMPK in one part of the body, they discovered that not only did it help in that one area, but it appeared to slow aging throughout the entire body as well. That meshes nicely with theories about treating aging, which say that it is not practical to try and treat one body system to prevent aging, but rather, it is necessary to treat the entire body. If we can pinpoint a way to slow aging using the gene, it would help with all kinds of diseases, from diabetes to cancer, because these often increase as cells breakdown through aging.