It's all in the brain! Scientists slow down ageing in mice
Manipulating a molecule in almond-sized structure increased longevity by 20%, says study
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 01 May 2013
An almond-sized structure in the brain may hold the key to slowing down the rate of ageing throughout the entire body, a study suggests.
Scientists believe they have found the "fountain of ageing" in the shape of the hypothalamus, a small region of the brain involved in regulating the secretion of various hormones.
The researchers said they have speeded up and slowed down the rate of ageing in laboratory mice by manipulating chemical messengers that affect the hypothalamus, which is known to play a fundamental role in growth, development, reproduction and metabolism.
"Scientists have long wondered whether ageing occurs independently in the body's various tissues or if it could be actively regulated by an organ in the body," said Dongsheng Cai of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
"It's clear from our study that many aspects of ageing are controlled by the hypothalamus. What's exciting is that it's possible, at least in mice, to alter signalling within the hypothalamus to slow down the ageing process and increase longevity," Dr Cai said.
The study, published in the journal Nature, focussed on a molecule known to be central to the many biochemical reactions involved in the process of inflammation, which is important in many age-related conditions, he said.
"As people age, you can detect inflammatory changes in various tissues. Inflammation is also involved in various age-related diseases, such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease and many types of cancer," Dr Cai said.
By manipulating the levels of the molecule, known as NF-kB, within the hypothalamus, the researchers were able to slow down the rate of ageing and increase longevity of mice by up to 20 per cent.
The team also found that they could slow the rate of cognitive decline by up to 50 per cent, which they could measure by how easy the mice remember how to find their way out of a maze.
Alternatively, they could activate the molecule and speed up ageing. "The mice showed a decrease in muscle strength and size, in skin thickness, and in their ability to learn - all indicators of ageing. Activating this pathway promoted systemic ageing that shortened their lifespan," Dr Cai said.
"The hypothalamus seems to have a fundamental role in the ageing of the whole body because it is so critical to the regulation of the endocrine hormones," he said.
"The hypothalamus is an important structure in the brain that controls lots of important functions in life and ageing is a phenomenon of life," he added.
- 1 2015 General Election: Green party will not appear in TV debate alongside Ukip – says BBC
- 3 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
- 4 North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'
- 5 Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
Elizabeth Norment dead: House of Cards actress honoured by Kevin Spacey after she dies aged 61
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Nigel Farage and Frankie Boyle clash over Andrew Lawrence's 'Mock the Week' criticism
£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...
£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...