Thursday, November 24, 2011

Yeast reveals how we might prolong our lifespan

A molecular mechanism discovered in yeast has implication on research that focuses on prolonging lifespan. It was found that a certain protein has the capability to significantly affect the lifespan of yeast. The question remains whether the same mechanism applies to humans. But if it does, we may have found a target to develop therapies to prolong our own lifespan. Of course, much more research would be required to find out whether we can do so in a healthy and pleasant way. Previously, scientists already discovered that longer life span is something that can be inherited.

Yeast is a single-celled organism, frequently studied because a lot of genetic and molecular processes are similar to ours. Now, scientists from John Hopkins Medicine have discovered that the protein sip2 plays an important role in ageing. When sip2 was artificially altered to increase in activity, the lifespan of yeast was significantly extended. This was measured by counting how often a yeast cell can divide before it ceases to function. When sip2 was manipulated, its number of replications increased from 25 to 38. This means the mother cell was able to produce 38 new cells, about 50 percent higher than in ordinary yeast.

Sip2 works by altering its target molecules. It is able to add a chemical group called acetyl to other proteins, which modifies the target's functionality. This process is called acetylation, and is commonly found in our bodies as well, especially to modify the activity of our DNA. However, it has never been implicated in the ageing process up till now. 

The newly discovered molecular mechanism gives a clear insight into how lifespan can be manipulated in yeast. Now, the researchers want to find out whether they can find the same pathway in human cells, to prolong their lifespan in the same way. It remains unknown whether this will work, and if it will have a beneficial effect on increasing the length of our life in a proper way: it is possible that side-effects make it undesirable.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing valuable information! I hope our scientists will find a way to prolong human lifespan. That will be amazing but hoping the side effects will be good as well.

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