Scientists successfully slow down cell aging by rewiring gene circuits
Aging is a natural process that happens to all living things.
But what if scientists could find a way to slow down the aging process?
That’s exactly what a group of researchers from the University of California San Diego did.
Cells in our body have gene circuits that control how they age.
These circuits work like our household circuits that control appliances like lights and refrigerators.
Just like a car ages as either the engine or transmission wears out, cells can age in different ways.
The researchers found that cells do not necessarily age at the same rate when they are under the control of a central gene regulatory circuit.
The scientists wanted to find a way to prevent cells from deteriorating, which is a normal part of aging. They have developed a “smart aging process” that prolongs cell longevity by switching deterioration from one aging mechanism to another.
It’s like switching back and forth between two different engines to power a car so neither wears out too much. This slows down the cell’s degeneration and can help it live longer.
To achieve this, the researchers rewired the circuitry that controls cell aging. They constructed a negative feedback loop to halt the aging process.
The rewired circuitry works like a clock, called a gene oscillator, causing the cell to periodically switch back and forth between two harmful “aged” states to avoid prolonged attachment to either one. This slows down the cell’s degeneration and can help it live longer.
The researchers used computer simulations to test their ideas before modifying the circuitry in cells. This saved them time and resources. It helped them find effective strategies to slow down the aging process.
During their research, the team studied yeast cells as a model for human cell aging. They developed and used microfluidics and time-lapse microscopy to track aging processes over the lifespan of the cell.
In the current study, yeast cells that were synthetically rewired and aged under the direction of the synthetic oscillator device resulted in an 82% increase in lifespan compared to control cells aged under normal circumstances.
This is a significant increase in service life!
“Our oscillator cells live longer than any longest-lived strain previously identified by unbiased genetic screens,” said Professor Nan Hao, the study’s senior author and co-director of UC San Diego’s Synthetic Biology Institute.
This research provides evidence that it is possible to slow down the ticking of the aging clock by actively preventing cells from embarking on a predetermined path of decline and death. The clock-like genoscillators could be a universal system to achieve this.
The team is currently expanding their research into the aging of various human cell types, including stem cells and neurons. They want to use their method to promote longevity in complex organisms.
This is exciting news because it means that we may one day be able to slow the aging process in our own bodies. This could help us live longer and healthier lives.
It’s important to note that this research is still in its early stages and it will be some time before scientists can apply this technology to humans.
But finding ways to slow the aging process and improve our health and longevity is a step in the right direction.