ST. LOUIS – Aging may not be an easy affair, but new research on mice suggests that someday, a protein supplement may be available to humans, which could delay aging by improving health and by adding years to our lives.
Those looking for the scientific equivalent of the "youth fountain" generally believe that having blood transfusions from young people can be the solution to slow the aging process and keep our bodies and brains in top shape. Scientists at the University of Washington's School of Medicine wanted to know how older mice would react to a specific protein abundantly present in the blood of younger mice. The results suggest that the administration of this enzymatic supplement in the blood to older mice could slow the effects of aging and lengthen the life of older mice by about 16%.
Researchers focused on protein eNAMPT, which plays a central role in the body's ability to produce the "fuel", called NAD, which prevents aging. The hypothalamus appears to be at the "aging control center," but needs eNAMPT to function effectively, according to scientists. When the level of strong protein in the blood is low, the hypothalamus loses steam as NAD is created, and the shelf life decreases.
In previous studies on aging, researchers used whole blood transfusions from young mice to old mice. The authors therefore wondered: what would happen if only the eNAMPT levels were manipulated in the mouse?
They were surprised and delighted by their findings: older mice receiving the protein from younger mice experienced slower degradation of their health, with fewer problems such as vision loss, weight gain, mobility problems or cognitive impairments. .
"We have found a totally new path to healthy aging," said Dr. Shin-ichiro Imai, senior author, professor of developmental biology, in a Washington-based press release. "The fact that we can take eNAMPT in the blood of young mice and give it to older mice and see that older mice have significant improvements in their health, including increased physical activity and better sleep – is remarkable.
In addition, a saline control group died before or around the age of about 2.4 years. But the mice administered eNAMPT have generally lived up to the age of 2.8 years. In fact, a mouse was still alive at the time of publication of the study.
"We were surprised by the dramatic differences between the aged mice that received the NAMPT from young mice and the older mice that received saline as a control," says Imai. "These are older mice without special genetic modification and, when supplemented with eNAMPT, their wheel behaviors, sleep patterns and physical appearance – a thicker and shinier fur, for example – resemble those of young people. mouse."
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Imai and his team also found that NAD levels in the body can be increased with doses of NMN molecule, which is produced by eNAMPT. They note that the NMN is currently being tested in humans.
"We believe that the body has so many redundant systems to maintain adequate NAD levels because they are so important," says Imai. "Our work and the work of others suggest that it governs the length of our lives and our health as we get older. Knowing that NAD inevitably decreases with age, whether worms, fruit flies, mice or humans, many researchers want to find anti-aging interventions to maintain NAD levels with aging. "
The authors do not know if eNAMPT would increase the lifespan of humans, but they argue that the correlation should be evaluated in future studies to confirm that it could be used as a biomarker of aging.
The study is published June 13 in the journal Cell metabolism.
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