Despite centuries of research and advances in medicine, there are still many mysteries that remain unsolved.
But a new study published in the scientific journal Nature may have finally found answers to these questions.
Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany not only found that gene transcription—the process by which cells make RNA copies of DNA strands—gets faster with age, but also becomes less precise and error-prone with age. . They also found that certain processes could help reverse this decline.
“This is, so far, the only moment of discovery in my life. I mean, this is the type of discovery you don’t make every other day,” said lead investigator Dr. .
“There is a storm brewing on Twitter. Some of my colleagues are very excited,” he told Euronews Next.
Before Beyer and his team began their research project a decade ago, typical aging research “just looked at differential gene expression,” says Beyer.
Previous studies have asked questions such as, ‘Which genes are turned on and which are turned off as we age?’ “How does it alter regulation and metabolism within the cell?”
However, no one asked how the transcription process itself changes with age.
Transcription, the key to healthy aging
Transcription is fundamental to Beyer’s work because it is the process by which cells make RNA copies of a portion of their DNA.
This copy is important because it carries the genetic information needed to make new proteins within the cell. Proteins determine the health and function of cells, and cells make up all living things.
Throughout our lives, our cells regenerate, “but each cell is different, and what makes them different is the different genes that are activated in them,” says Beyer. Explains. “This activation is called transcription.”
Genes give a cell a purpose, so its transcription must be perfect.
“We need to make the right amount of transcripts for each gene and make an exact copy of the gene sequence, but we also need to activate the exact genes that the cell needs to function properly.” Beyer said.
The human body has many different types of cells, including nerve cells, muscle cells, blood cells, and skin cells. Also, different sets of genes are activated (transcribed) in each cell type because each cell performs a different function.
The “machine” responsible for making transcription copies of gene sequences is called Pol II (RNA polymerase II), as Beyer calls it.
And what his team found is that with age, the transcription process speeds up, and this accelerated transcription causes Pol II to make more mistakes, essentially ‘which can lead to many diseases. It was that it would lead to “bad” copy.
“If Pol II gets too fast, it will make more mistakes and the sequence will not be identical to the genome sequence.
Second big breakthrough to stop malicious cell copying
Previous studies had already demonstrated that a low-calorie diet and inhibition of insulin signaling (blocking the signal between insulin and cells) can slow aging and extend lifespan in many animals.
In experiments, Beyer’s team wanted to see if these had any impact on slowing Pol II and reducing the number of defective copies.
The study – a collaboration of 26 people across six different laboratories – first used earthworms, mice, fruit flies genetically engineered to inhibit insulin signaling, and mice fed a low-calorie diet. , determined cellular transcriptional performance in senescence. In both cases, the Pol II reacted and moved slower and made fewer misses.
Beyer and his team then tracked the survival of Drosophila and C. elegans carrying Pol II-slowing mutations, and found that these animals survived 10% to 20% longer than those without the mutation. I lived
When researchers used gene editing to reverse mutations in worms, the animals’ lifespans were shortened, establishing a causal link.
To test their experiments in humans, they used blood samples from men and women of all ages.
“And when we compared young cells to very old cells in vitro, we got exactly the same results,” one of the principal investigators, Argyris Papantonis, told Euronews Next.
Cross-species results confirm that it “is indeed a general phenomenon that applies to aging and is not unique to a single model, for example in flies.”
“Our research shows that, for example, a healthy diet and caloric restriction interventions improve the transcriptional quality of RNA production in cells, and this has long-term beneficial effects on cells. “.
Investigation result “Cancer is a late disease caused by errors,” Papantonis said.
They also allow us to “get a better understanding of aging and what is happening with it,” and ultimately, “to slow aging or magnify healthy aging.” Interventions that may open up new opportunities can be better understood.