Friday, 6 September 2013

Is this the 'FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH'?


A drug that can reduce the rate at which you age? Scientists may be one step closer to developing a compound that could slow down the ageing process after discovering that by improving the stability of rDNA genes they could extend the lifespan of baker’s yeast.


Imagine being able to take a drug that can reduce the rate at which you age. Research by Massey University senior lecturer in genetics Dr Austen Ganley is making this dream one step closer to reality.
A new study, published in the journal Current Biology, provides evidence that ageing works through a special set of genes that everyone has - the rDNA genes.
Dr Ganley was part of an international team, led by Dr Takehiko Kobayashi from the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima, Japan. The team found that by improving the stability of the rDNA genes, which are usually quite unstable, they could extend the lifespan of baker’s yeast, a model system for studying cell ageing.
“This work is exciting because it shows that rDNA instability is a new factor in ageing,” says Dr Ganley.
The researchers set out to understand how the Sir2 gene reduces aging in yeast. Sir2 genes shot to prominence as potential human anti-aging genes with the finding that resveratrol, a component of red wine, activates them. However, subsequent research has found that resveratrol doesn’t extend lifespan in mammals.
The yeast Sir2 gene controls rDNA stability, but also has many other targets in the cell. The breakthrough came when the scientists found a way to separate Sir2’s effect on the rDNA from its other effects. This allowed them to show that Sir2’s anti-aging effect comes exclusively through stabilisation of the rDNA genes.
“This is significant,” says Dr Ganley, “because in humans there are seven Sirtuins (the equivalent of the Sir2 gene), and they all behave very differently to the yeast Sir2 gene. In contrast, the rDNA genes are very similar between yeast and humans, therefore rDNA gene instability may be the common factor in aging across life.”

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