Researchers unlock biological secrets to ageing

Australian researchers think they have uncovered the master controller of the ageing process.

The discovery could potentially pave the way to improve quality of life as people age.

The study, led by Christian Nefzger in conjunction with 15 Australian laboratories including Monash University and the University of Melbourne, decoded the process of how genes regulate how people mature as they grow and age.

The research paper is published in Cell Metabolism.

Dr Nefzger said until now, the process of how genes change activity from birth to adulthood and into old age was largely unknown.

By analysing both people and mice, and comparing different age groups over time, researchers were able to investigate the activity of genes involved in both the developmental and ageing processes.

“Master controller genes regulate which genes are turned on or off in each of our cells, making sure that each cell does its specific job, just as a conductor directs musicians to produce different sounds,” Dr Nefzger said.

“We followed the activity of the master regulator activator protein 1 or AP-1 and found that it progressively activated adult genes, whilst the activity of ‘early-life’ genes involved in development were dialled down, and this process was shared across cell types.”

The study found that process was predictable across the different life stages, as people mature.

It also found that AP-1 was activated by a number of stress and inflammatory processes as well as by a protein in blood that increases with age.

By identifying the AP-1 as a master controller, researchers will now be able to study the effects of drugs that reduce its activity to extend quality of life.

Dr Nefzger said the goal is to prevent diseases of ageing from escalating or occurring in the first place by targeting the underlying ageing process to allow people to grow older in better health.

The findings could help address diseases associated with ageing, like Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic liver disorders and stroke.


Melissa Meehan
(Australian Associated Press)


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