Harvard researchers may have just found the “root cause of aging”: A group of proteins called sirtuins.

For a decade or so, scientists have known that these sirtuins are somehow involved in the aging process. But their interest in these sirtuins only took off when they discovered that…

…would stimulate the sirtuins into having a positive effect on aging.

So What Exactly Do Sirtuins Do?

sleeping-guardSirtuins are like a genetic watch dog.

They keep an eye on select genes to see which are turned on and which are turned off. Kind of like a security guard keeping an eye of the security video monitors.

Here’s why:

  • While all genes are present in all cells, only a select few need to be active at any given time.
  • If the wrong genes are switched on, this can harm the cell.
  • For example, in a kidney cell, there are liver genes present, but they are switched off. If these liver genes were to become active, that could damage the kidney.

The sirtuins guard the genes that are supposed to be off and ensure that they stay that way.

To do this, they help preserve the molecular packaging—called chromatin—that shrink-wraps these genes tight and keeps them idle.

But that’s not all. Sirtuins have another important job.

When your DNA gets damaged by UV light or free radicals, sirtuins stop their security guard duties and rush to the site of the damaged DNA and join in on the repair.

All of this leads us to…

The Latest Research

In this stnew udy, the researchers found that when the sirtuins left their guard posts and rushed towards the damaged DNA, the chromatin wrapping (or shrink-wrap) covering the sleeping genes could start to unravel, and the genes that were meant to be inactive (or regulated) could in fact become active (or un-regulated).

Apparently, this isn’t a good thing to have happen.

spider-web-prey-sirtuins-genes
A Sirtuin re-wraps a Gene and puts it back to sleep

Luckily for us, the sirtuins are usually able to return to their post in time to get the awakened genes back under wraps before they cause any permanent damage.

However, in this latest study, the researchers found that as their little lab mice age, their rates of DNA damage increases.

This means that the sirtuins are being pulled away from their guard duties more and more often.

As a result, more and more sleeping genes wake up, break out of their shrink-wrap and break free before the sirtuins can return and put them back to sleep.

Once again, not a good to have happen. And it gets even worse,

  • Scientists found that many of these haplessly activated genes are directly linked with aging, and that
  • They also found that older mice had higher numbers of these unregulated genes.

But don’t despair, my news eventually gets better:

The Good News

Discovery of the mechanism behind all of this bad news has led to a hypothesis on how to reverse this action and potentially reverse signs of aging.

Scientists began wondering what would happen if they put more of the sirtuin back into their aging test mice.

They believed that with more sirtuins on the job, DNA repair would be more efficient, and the aging mouse would maintain a youthful pattern of gene expression into old age.

And that’s precisely what happened.

Using a mouse genetically altered to model lymphoma, researcher Philipp Oberdoerffer administered extra copies of the sirtuin gene, or fed them the sirtuin activator resveratrol, which in turn extended their lifespan by 24 to 46 percent.

Conclusions

Because of this research, we now know that while DNA damage increases the rate of aging, it isn’t the actual cause of aging.

Un-regulated genes are the cause of aging.

And, because of this research, we also know that if we can help the sirtuins keep regulated genes from becoming un-regulated, the elements of aging can be reversed.

Big news people, big news. At least for the little lab mice. Tests on humans have yet to be scheduled.

So, for now, you can either wait for the science to come to a proper conclusion, or you can load up on some resveratrol.

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References

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