Nobody can escape aging. It is associated with the dynamic changes in the biological, physiological, environmental, psychological behavioral, and social aspects of a living creature. Some results in declines in function of the sense and increased susceptibility to disease, frailty or disability.
Many scientists have already tried to develop products or methods that can delay or reverse the effects of aging. Recently, Science Times reported that researchers at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences showed how mifepristone could extend the lives of Drosophila and C. elegans.
Now, scientists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) may be one step closer to delaying the aging process.
Understanding the Aging Process of Cells
The team of researchers studied aging in yeast cells. They chose yeast as a material of study because it can easily be manipulated. Using it, they tried to understand if different cells age at the same time, and for the same reason.
Their study yielded intriguing results. They found that although cells with the same genetic materials and within the same environment can age in "strikingly distinct ways," said the scientists who published their findings in the journal Science.
The scientists used techniques that include microfluids and computer modelling and learned that about 50% of the yeast cells aged because of a gradual decline in the cells' nucleolus- a round body situated in the nucleus of a cell.
But the other half of the yeast cells aged because there is a dysfunction of mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.
According to the scientists, the cells go down one of two paths, either a nuclear or mitochondrial, early in life. They continue with the route of aging until they ultimately will decline and die. The scientists performed more tests to know how the cells behaved.
"To understand how cells make these decisions, we identified the molecular processes underlying each aging route and the connections among them, revealing a molecular circuit that controls cell aging, analogous to electric circuits that control home appliances," said Nan Hao, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the division of biological sciences' molecular biology section of USCD.
Designing a New Aging Path
When the team was done modeling the "aging landscape," they found that they could manipulate and optimize the process of aging by computer simulations to reprogram the master circuit of the cell and modify its DNA.
They were able to create a "novel aging route" with an extended lifespan. They believe that it could ultimately lead to the possibility of delaying the aging of humans.
"This is an aging path that never existed, but because we understand how it is regulated, we can basically design or regulate a new aging path," said Hao.
Their study raises the possibility of designing gene or chemically-based therapies to reprogram the human aging process to delay it and possibly extend the human lifespan.
The scientists are now planning to test their model in complex cells, organisms and humans, and to test how combinations of therapeutics and drugs could lead to further longevity.