A group of German scientists may have finally cracked the code to slow down human aging. According to a new study published in Nature, researchers with the University of Cologne in Germany have discovered a breakthrough in gene transcription that could be the key to how aging works.
Further, this key may be malleable, allowing us to use certain processes to reverse the changes caused by gene transcription. The key used to copy DNA is RNA’s process. Researchers found that this process becomes more error-prone as we age.
One researcher involved in the new study, Dr. Andreas Beyer, told Euronews that previous studies have all focused on why humans age and which genes were being flipped on and off during the process. Beyer claims that no one has ever asked how transcription changes with age, which may be useful for slowing down human aging.
Gene transcription is a foundational piece of the puzzle, Beyer and his colleagues believe. This process sees RNA copying DNA directly, and if it’s messing up that copy somehow, making it an imperfect copy full of errors, then it’s messing up vital genetic information needed to make the proteins in the body’s cells.
If a DNA slice with errors is pumping bad information out, the proteins will determine the health and function for the cells. If proteins are not delivering perfect information to cells, they will mess up something along the way.
It’s this flawed transcription that could be one of the key factors in slowing human aging. But how do you stop something like RNA from doing its job badly? Beyer’s team discovered that a diet low in calories could be one of the ways to achieve this.
Previous research has already shown how your diet and how your body signals for insulin can affect how certain animals age, sometimes even slowing aging and extending the animal’s lifespan. Beyer and his team experimented on fruit flies, mice, and worms that they had genetically changed to inhibit insulin signaling.
The animals lived 10 to 20 percent longer than their non-mutant counterparts — mice that had been placed on a low-calorie diet. They also tested the research in human blood and found that it reacted similarly, the RNA slowing its transcription process and making fewer errors.
It’s possible this process could be changed to slow human aging and possibly even help prevent late-life diseases like cancer from manifesting because of the errors created in the transcription process. If nothing else, it will provide us a better understanding of the aging process, which could help us stop aging entirely.
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