We all want longer lives! Who wouldn’t love a few more years or decades to explore more of the world, try new things, and enjoy life a little bit more? This desire to extend our lifespans has led people to wild searches for mythological concepts like the “Fountain of Youth.” In recent years, a great number of scientists have dedicated themselves to finding solutions for the aging problem.
The good news is that a number of fascinating breakthroughs have been made. Science has uncovered marvelous substances that can help to slow aging, internal functions that can protect from cellular decay, and even new treatments and medications that can counteract age. One new study found a simple solution: turning off just one enzyme!
Researchers from University College London took a closer look at the RNA polymerase III enzyme (also known as Pol III), an enzyme that is found in most cells. Not just human cells, mind you, but the cells of just about every species on the planet.
The Pol III enzyme plays a crucial role in cellular growth, thanks to its ability to create new proteins. However, in addition to this its ability to stimulate growth, the researchers believed that the enzyme also contributed to aging.
When the scientists suppressed the activity of this enzyme in flies and worms, the (very short) lifespan of these creatures was increased by 10%. Even just a modest reduction in the activity of the Pol III enzyme led to visible results: a longer lifespan.
The research pointed to the enzyme’s ability to impact stem cell function negatively, as well as impairing gut health and decreasing survival rates. The fact that it’s the same in all species—from insects to mammals—means that it is very likely to have the same impact on human bodies as on mice or worms. Further studies may help to uncover a new treatment for aging: suppressing the activity of the Poll III enzyme.
According to the lead author of the paper, “We now think that Pol III promotes growth and accelerates ageing in response to a signal inhibited by rapamycin (an immune-suppressing drug), and that inhibiting Pol III is sufficient to result in flies living longer as if they were given rapamycin. If we can investigate this mechanism further and across a wider range of species, we can develop targeted antiaging therapies.”
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When presented this data, another scientist was fascinated by the potential it could offer. “It is amazing that we can make one genetic adjustment and positively impact on lifespan and intestinal health,” said Dr. Jennifer Tullet, University of Kent. “Understanding more about the underlying molecules at work here promises new strategies for anti-ageing therapies.”
With anti-aging treatments being so popular, it’s no surprise that pharmaceutical companies are investing a great deal of money into finding the next great solution for combatting aging. Everything from the body’s own cells to unique nutrients in plants and fruits to unique medications are being used to find that way to extend lifespan.
More and more, science is pointing toward our bodies as one of the best solutions for anti-aging. Essentially, if scientists are able to uncover ways to shut down or suppress the cellular processes that contribute to aging, there is hope that we would be able to combat aging at the most basic level. The same anti-aging treatments could also lead to medical breakthroughs and solutions to combat disease and injury.
For now, scientists are content to make one small discovery at a time. Each new scientific find builds upon the previous ones. In this instance, the research builds on previous discoveries of medications that could help to prevent aging, even if the scientists didn’t understand why or how.
The study’s co-author said, “Understandably, there’s a lot of hype around drugs that extend lifespan and promote healthy ageing but very little is known about how they work, which is fundamental knowledge.”
That’s what science is all about: taking what is already fundamental knowledge and expanding on it. The more we can learn about our bodies and how they work, the closer we’ll come to understanding the ways to combat disease and aging.
Perhaps we may never see the day that anti-aging serums combat more than wrinkles, but it’s exciting to know that there are dedicated people delving into the mysteries of the universe—both all around us and within us—to uncover new solutions to live longer! Who needs the Fountain of Youth when we’ve got science working for us?
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