University of Michigan researchers have found that suppressing a certain gene in roundworms extended their lifespan.
The U-M results could pave the way for discovery of new drugs that help people live longer.
The gene, drr-2, is an important component in a key cellular pathway, the TOR nutrient-sensing pathway, where many scientists are looking for potential drug targets.
Scientists found that its under- or over-expression could lengthen or shorten lifespan in C. elegans, a worm widely used in research.
When calories or certain nutrients are restricted, scientists detect less oxidative damage in animal cells and a slower decline in DNA repair, a decline that normally occurs with age. But little was known as to why this happens.
Drugs tailored to block specific genes or proteins involved in nutrient-sensing pathways would have much more appeal than reducing what one eats.
In addition, drugs might be designed to avoid other disadvantages of this level of dietary restriction, which include reduced fertility.
Ao-Lin Allen Hsu's team showed that silencing drr-2's action alone was sufficient to make worms live longer.
"Our recent studies have shown that drr-2 might play a pivotal role in the TOR signaling network to control protein synthesis as well as longevity," Hsu said. he study is published in the August issue of Aging Cell.