A new study, published by the Leibniz Institute on Aging, the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, the Jena University Hospital and the Friedrich Schiller University, has specified that genes are involved in the ageing process, can extend life span and are involved in treating chronic conditions.
The researchers analyzed the genes found in different organisms and examined how closely they are related to each other. These same genes are also found in humans.
The scientists examined around 40,000 genes in the nematode C. elegans, zebra fish and mice and screened them for genes which are regulated in the same manner in each ageing stage.
The researchers measured the amount of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules found in the cells of these animals as a measure of gene activity. Thirty genes were found that commonly influence the ageing process.
The bcat-1 gene was determined to increase the lifespan of nematode by 25% by blocking the effect of this gene.
The bcat-1 gene carries the code for the enzyme of the same name, which degrades branched-chain amino acids. These include the amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine.
When the researchers inhibited the gene activity of bcat-1, the branched-chain amino acids accumulated in the tissue, triggering a molecular signalling cascade that increased longevity in the nematodes. The time during which the worms remained healthy was extended and the worms had an improved speed at which the creatures moved, and reproduction rate.
The multiple branched-chain amino acids are already being used to treat liver damage and other chronic health conditions. The study will deliver important indicators on how the ageing process could be influenced and how age-related diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure could be prevented.