One of the main goals of my blog is to keep readers aware of important research and discoveries in the field of life extension, longevity and anti-aging. To that end, we have been following the work of Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo (www.einstein.yu.edu/cuervo), a molecular biology professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and would like to provide some details into her important research and recent findings.
According to Cuervo, “the current challenges in the field of aging are two-fold: To continue and complete the molecular dissection of the factors that contribute to aging and to promote the translation of these novel findings into interventions to improve the health-span of the aging human population”.
Dr. Cuervo identified certain defects that lead to decreased activity of Chaperone-Mediated Autophagy (CMA) (www.einstein.yu.edu/cuervo/chaperone.htm) with age and how to correct and improve cellular function. Dr. Cuervo theorized that the decrease of Autophagy could be a determining factor in why some older organisms are unable to fight off cell abnormalities. Her research looked at the breakdown of the various autophagic pathways as the body ages and if restoring these pathways would jumpstart normal cellular activity. CMA is involved in at least 30% of the body’s cell degradation processes and upon studying this pathway, Cuervo determined that the LAMP-2A protein acts as a vital receptor in the pathway.
In recent experiments, livers in genetically modified mice 22 to 26 months old (the equivalent of octogenarians in human years), that were injected with the LAMP-2A protein, cleaned blood as efficiently as those in animals a quarter their age! By contrast, the livers of normal mice in a control group began to fail. While her paper didn’t show increased survival rates among the mice, Dr. David le Couteur (http://ichal06.longevity-international.com/cms/details.asp?NewsID=281), a leading Australian ageing researcher and Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Sydney, says the paper was a major breakthrough and that Cuervo’s data definitely demonstrated improved survival rates. “She has single-handedly shown that lysosome function is a crucial part of the ageing process,” he says. Cuervo has also shown, he says, the critical role the lysosomal receptor molecules play in keeping the liver clean of damaged proteins.
Cuervo’s findings suggest that therapies for boosting protein clearance might help stave off some of the declines in function that accompany old age. This is especially positive news for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease as Dr. Cuervo has linked these diseases to a toxic buildup from mutated proteins possibly due to a breakdown in autophagy.
Dr. Cuervo is also working with pharmaceutical companies to identify drugs that will turn receptors on, or make them more active. Cuervo believes maintaining efficient protein clearance may improve longevity and function in all the body’s tissues. “The benefits of restoring the cleaning mechanisms found inside all cells could extend far beyond a single organ”, says Cuervo. “If the body’s ability to dispose of cell debris within the cell were enhanced across a wider range of tissues, she says, it could extend life as well”.
Read more about chaperone-mediated autophagy and the published research findings of Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo:http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v14/n9/full/nm.1851.html
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