Researchers have zeroed in on 30 genes which, if tweaked a bit, can get you eternal youth - without having to search for and drink that elusive elixir of life. The team revealed that one of these genes proved to be particularly influential - the bcat-1 gene.
Michael Ristow, professor of energy metabolism at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), said, "When we blocked the effect of this gene, it significantly extended the mean lifespan of the nematode by up to 25%."
Ristow has no doubt that the same mechanism occurs in humans. He said, "We looked only for the genes that are conserved in evolution and, therefore, exist in all organisms, including humans."
When the researchers inhibited the gene activity of bcat-1, the branched-chain amino acids accumulated in the tissue, triggering a molecular signalling cascade that increased longevity in the nematodes. Moreover, the time span during which the worms remained healthy was extended.
The study that involved researchers from JenAge consortium from Jena in Zurich said, "As a measure of vitality, the researchers measured the accumulation of aging pigments, the speed at which the creatures moved, and how often the nematodes successfully reproduced. All of these parameters improved when the scientists inhibited the activity of the bcat-1 gene."
In order to detect these genes, the researchers combed through 40,000 genes in the nematode C. elegans, zebra fish and mice. The multiple branched-chain amino acids are already being used to treat liver damage and are also added to sport nutrition products.
The authors said, "However, the point is not for people to grow even older, but rather to stay healthy for longer."
The study, published in the Nature Communication, will deliver important indicators on how the aging process could be influenced and how age-related diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure could be prevented.