The very first drug against aging is coming
After decades of research, there is still no effective drug that slows down the aging process. There are so many factors involved in aging, that scientists do not know which factor they must use to develop an active remedy for aging. But researchers at the German Cancer Research Center believe that they have now discovered something that will cause the first effective anti-aging pill to come out of the laboratories in the not too distant future.
When the researchers compared immune cells from people in their twenties with those from people over 55, they discovered that the aging process makes cells produce less and less thioredoxin [TRX]. Thioredoxin is an enzyme that allows endogeneous anti-oxidant molecules such as glutathione to protect cells from aggressive molecules that biochemists call 'free radicals'. Aging symptoms are partly caused by those free radicals.
The Germans also discovered that the decrease in the production of thioredoxin was caused by an aging-related increase in the production of thioredoxin-interacting protein [TXNIP]. And so the researchers wondered whether they could make cells more resistant to free radicals by slowing down TXNIP cells - and let organisms live longer.
In vitro study
The researchers brought a piece of genetic material into the DNA of cells, which made which those cells produce less TXNIP. This new piece of DNA only became active when the researchers exposed the cells to the antibiotic doxycycline [Dox].
The researchers exposed the genetically modified cells to hydrogen peroxide [H2O2; a free radical], a large percentage of the cells died. But when they activated the new gene construct with doxycycline, the mortality of the cells halved. They were protected by a surplus of thioredoxin.
Animal study: life span extension
The researchers made two types of genetically modified fruit flies. One type made more TXNIP than normal flies, the other kind made less of TXNIP than normal flies. The flies with extra TXNIP lived on average shorter than normal, the flies with less TXNIP on average longer than normal.
Although the Germans experimented with cells and fruit flies, not with humans, they think their findings pave the the way for the development of a drug, or perhaps a diet or supplement, that will slow down the aging process in humans. "TRX-1 and its opponent TXNIP are highly conserved in the course of evolution; they hardly differ between flies and humans", explains research leader Peter Krammer in a press release. [sciencedaily.com June 20, 2018]
"Scientists have found hundreds of genes that are somehow related to the aging process. But it is enough to switch off TXNIP to delay aging. [...] And that makes it an interesting candidate to intervene in the aging process in the future."
FEBS Lett. 2018 Jun 13. doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.13156. [Epub ahead of print].
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