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Transposable elements study reveals potential methods to stop aging

Date: 2.10.2023 

Researchers Dr. Ádám Sturm and Dr. Tibor Vellai from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary have made an exciting breakthrough in understanding how we age. They focused on "transposable elements" (TEs), which are parts of DNA that can move around in our genetic code. When these TEs move too much, they destabilize the genetic code and that can be the reason of aging.

Kredit: Sturm, Á. et al. (2023), Nature Communications.The scientists have identified a specific process, called the Piwi-piRNA pathway, that helps control these TEs. They've seen this pathway at work in certain cells that don't age, like cancer stem cells, and notably, the enigmatic Turritopsis dohrnii, commonly known as the "immortal jellyfish." By strengthening this pathway in a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, the worm lived significantly longer.

Now, in their latest publication in Nature Communications they've provided experimental proof. Their research showed that controlling the activity of TEs can indeed extend lifespan, indicating these mobile DNA elements play a crucial role in the aging process.

In more technical terms, the researchers used techniques to "downregulate" or quiet down the activity of TEs. When they did this to specific TEs in worms, the worms showed signs of aging slower. Even more, when multiple TEs were controlled simultaneously, the lifespan-extending effects added up.

Image source: Sturm, Á. et al. (2023), Nature Communications.





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