From the Financial Times:
One of the biggest puzzles in biology – how and why living cells age – has been solved by an international team based at Newcastle University, in north-east England.
The answer is complex, and will not produce an elixir of eternal life in the foreseeable future.
But the scientists expect better drugs for age-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, to emerge from their discovery of the biochemical pathway involved in ageing.
The Newcastle team, working with the University of Ulm in Germany, used a comprehensive “systems biology” approach, involving computer modelling and experiments with cell cultures and genetically modified mice, to investigate why cells become senescent. In this aged state, cells stop dividing and the tissues they make up show physical signs of deterioration, from wrinkling skin to a failing heart.
The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an ageing cell detects serious damage to its DNA – caused by the wear and tear of life – it sends out specific internal signals.
These distress signals trigger the cell’s mitochondria, its tiny energy-producing power packs, to make oxidising “free radical” molecules, which in turn tell the cell either to destroy itself or to stop dividing. The aim is to avoid the damaged DNA that causes cancer…
[continues in the Financial Times]
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