Greek Scientists Uncover Mechanism That
Modulates Aging Process


(Heraklion, Greece) Research at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, published recently in the international scientific journal Nature, revealed a novel molecular mechanism that modulates the process of aging.

By using the simple nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, IMBB researchers Popi Syntichaki and Kostoula Troulinaki, headed by Nektarios Tavernarakis, have discovered a previously unknown link between a basic cellular process and aging.
This is the first time that aging is directly linked with protein symthesis.

Although aging is a fundamental biological phenomenon and is experienced by the vast majority of living organisms, it remains poorly understood. Which molecular mechanisms are responsible for cellular and organismal aging and senescence? How are these mechanisms regulated? With their study, IMBB researchers demonstrate that the cellular process of protein synthesis is intimately coupled with the pace of aging. Protein synthesis is one of the most energy-demanding cellular processes, consuming almost 50% of the total energy produced by the cell. Downregulation of protein synthesis would generate an energy surplus that now becomes available for investment in mechanisms of cellular repair and maintenance, in turn increasing survival. Indeed, by manipulations that reduce the rate of protein synthesis, IMBB researchers managed to extend the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans significantly. This is the first time that aging is directly linked with protein synthesis.

Given that the mechanisms governing protein synthesis in higher organisms, including humans, are remarkably similar to those in the nematode, it is highly likely that an analogous association between protein synthesis and aging is an important longevity determinant in these organisms. Aging and senescence are complex processes that dramatically impact human health and society. Elucidation of the basic molecular mechanisms underlying the progressive decline in cellular function that accompanies aging and eventually leads to senescence will have an immediate impact on the design of novel interventions that could reduce or delay age-related deterioration in humans. The novel findings reported by IMBB investigators are anticipated to stir innovative research approaches in this direction.



(Posting date 18 January 2007
)

For more information about IMBB or the scientists' findings, please contact
Dr. Nektarios Tavernarakis, Principal Investigator, (+30-2810-391066; tavernarakis@imbb.forth.gr) or Dr. George Thireos, IMBB Director, (+30-2810-391109; thireos@imbb.forth.gr) . Relevant links: http://www.imbb.forth.gr/worms/ and http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature05603.html

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