Boosting ‘Cellular Garbage Disposal’ Can Delay the Aging Process
UCLA life scientists have identified a gene previously implicated in Parkinson’s disease that can delay the onset of aging and extend the healthy life span of fruit flies. The research, they say, could have important implications for aging and disease in humans.
The gene, called parkin, serves at least two vital functions: It marks damaged proteins so that cells can discard them before they become toxic, and it is believed to play a key role in the removal of damaged mitochondria from cells.
“Aging is a major risk factor for the development and progression of many neurodegenerative diseases,” said David Walker, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and senior author of the research. “We think that our findings shed light on the molecular mechanisms that connect these processes.”
In the research, published today in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Walker and his colleagues show that parkin can modulate the aging process in fruit flies, which typically live less than two months. The researchers increased parkin levels in the cells of the flies and found that this extended their life span by more than 25 percent, compared with a control group that did not receive additional parkin.