A team of University of Michigan scientists has found that suppressing a newly discovered gene lengthens the lifespan of nematode worms. The goal of the scientific group is to identify ways to mimic the possitive effects of dietary restriction on lifespan of model animals. The idea is to find specific genes, alter their activity using drugs, and improve health and extend life as the result.
So this time researchers looked at the components of the TOR pathway. It is one of the major metabolic pathways in the cell, because it sences the nutrients and is responsible for cell growth, proliferation, survival, protein synthesis and transcription. There is quite a lot of scientific evidence that it is good thing for an organism to suppress this pathway. In this case model animals live longer.
“We showed that in C. elegans, drr-2 is one of the essential genes for the TOR pathway to modulate lifespan,” says Ao-Lin Allen Hsu, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and a scientist at the U-M Geriatrics Center. The analogous human gene is eIF4H that controls similar cell functions. This makes the drr-2 gene a good target for potencial drug therapy. The next step would be to identify its suppressors.
Read more: Early discovery may aid search for anti-aging drus
There are several molecules that can slow down or even reverse neuron death. One example is naturally occurring brain protein, called glial-cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). It can protect and restore neurons, which can help patients recovering after stroke, people with drug addiction and suffering from Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease.
The huge obstacle for developing therapies for the brain is delivery. Almost no potential drugs can make their way though the very tight mesh of endothelial cells lining the blood vessels in the brain, which is the blood-brain barrier.
Researchers have been trying to overcome this hurdle for quite a number of years. Now there’s a promising approach, developed by a “garage-band” biotech company, ArmaGen Technologies, located in Santa Monica, California. The founder, William Pardridge, and his collegues developed a molecule, called AGT-190, which acts like a Trojan Horse. It sneaks across the barrier that separates blood and brain tissue and delivers its contents – GDNF that has a possibility for regenerating or rejuvenating some of the sick cells in the brain. The company is waiting for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give their permission for carrying out human safety tests.
Read more about AGT-190 and other approaches to deliver drugs to the brain.
There’s this fascinating article published in Science that I decided to illustrate. This is my retelling of the story.