Long-lasting health secret transmitted in old age

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Is a worm the key to healthy aging?

Unfortunately, the growing life expectancy in recent decades has not caused an increase in the health or quality of life of older people. That's why researchers are looking for ways to increase the quality of life in old age. A gene recently discovered in worms could now provide answers.

The recent Okinawan Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) study identified a gene in a worm related to the healthy aging of the C. elegans worm. The results of the study were published in the newspaper in English "G3: genes, genomes, genetics"Posted.

Improvement of the quality of life and health in old age through a gene discovered in worms? (Image: pikselstock / fotolia.com)

The movement in old age is an indicator of health

In the ciliary worm elegans, a gene called elpc-2 has been identified that plays an important role in maintaining health status with aging of the worm. Worms with defects in this gene show movement disorders in old age. The movement in old age is an indicator of the health of humans and worms. This gene is conserved in humans, the researchers report. "As we age, some people maintain their full mobility, while other people do not, and we want to understand the genetic reasons," explains study author Dr. Kazuto Kawamura of the Okinawan Institute of Science and Technology in one Press release,

C. elegans is good for studying aging

This gene is one of many other genes that play an important role in healthy aging. A new experimental approach allows the simultaneous study of hundreds of worms, which could be useful for other research in the future. The elpc-2 gene is expressed throughout the body by C. elegans. It plays an important role in the ability to move as the worms age. C. elegans is a useful model for studying aging, since worms have a short life and can be easily manipulated in the laboratory. The researchers inserted random mutations in the genome of these worms. By studying the progeny of mutant worms, it was possible to analyze which mutations influenced health.

How was the experiment structured?

The researchers studied whether organisms were able to maintain their ability to move to a food source as they grew. For this, the worms were placed in the middle of a bowl, with the food on the edge of the bowl. The worms move by nature towards food, provided their movement is not compromised. All worms that did not reach the feed on the first day were removed from the experiment. The authors wanted to find out how the exercise capacity decreases with age. The remaining worms have been retested as they age, using the same approach. In this next test several worms with movement disorders were identified. These were then sequenced and their DNA compared to that of a normal worm to locate mutations and identify the genes responsible.

What is the Elongator complex?

The creation of hundreds of random mutations was not very difficult for researchers. More problematic is finding out which mutation is responsible for the influence on the ability to move. However, with the new approach of worms crawling towards a food source at the edge of the shell, the motility of hundreds of worms can be tested simultaneously, the authors explain. In this way, the researchers identified the elpc-2 gene and its role in worm health. The gene encodes a part of the so-called elongator complex, which has many important functions, including the control of the correct folding of proteins. Some of these proteins can in turn play a role in locomotion. The worms with a damaged elpc-2 gene lacked a complex functioning elongator, which explains why the movement was compromised. To confirm this, the researchers injected these worms with a copy of the gene and the movement was restored.

Further research will take place in Germany

It is interesting to note that other genes have also been identified that have had a strong impact on health, but not on the life span of the animals, the authors report. In other words, the underlying mutations have not had a significant impact on the life span of a worm, but on how it moves. This shows that although health and life overlap, the genetic basis is different, the researchers explain. In the future, the author of the Kawamura study wants to explore other genes that are important for healthy aging. "Once we have a more complete picture of the genes involved, we can begin to manipulate them to improve health, first in C. elegans and perhaps one day in humans," says the author. Kawamura will now continue his work on C. elegans at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Germany. (As)

sources:

  • Kazuto Kawamura, Ichiro N. Maruyama: Forward Genetic Screen for Caenorhabditis elegans Mutants with a shortened locomotor Healthspan, in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics (Request: 14.07.2019), G3: genes, genomes, genetics
  • New gene linked to healthy aging in Worms, Institute of Science and Technology of Okinawa (application: 14.07.2019), is O

. (TagsToTranslate) Age (t) Health (t) Movement (t) with worm screw (t) ELPC-2

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