Researchers found that certain molecular events enable communication between the mitochondria, responsible for powering the cell, and the nucleus, and as this communication breaks down it cause the aging process to pick up. The findings of the study were published Thursday in the journal Cell.
“The ageing process we discovered is like a married couple – when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down,” said Prof. David Sinclair of the University of New South Wales.
The breakdown is caused as the levels of a chemical calledNAD, responsible for this communication, start to fall. The reduction in NAD was slowed by restricting calorie intake and engaging in exercise. But now researchers have used a compound that cells transform into NAD and help rebuild this communication between the mitochondria and nucleus.
Sinclair, who works at Harvard Medical School, tested the compound on muscle tissue cells, while his colleagues in Australia used animal models to test the same. They found that two-year-old mice performed well on insulin resistance and inflammation, typical signs of aging. The comparisons were made with six-month-old animals, who when given the same compound were “supercharged above normal level” on certain measures, suggesting benefits for young and healthy humans as well.
“It was a very pronounced effect,” said co-author Dr. Nigel Turner. “It’s something like a 60-year-old being similar to a 20-year-old on some measures.”
HIF-1, an intrusive chemical that reduces this communication and also known to be activated by cancer cells, was found to be crucial in the aging process as well.
“We become cancer-like in our ageing process,” said Sinclair. “Nobody has linked cancer and ageing like this before.”