Posted on Jul 10, 2018, 10 p.m.
UT Southwestern Medical researchers have been studying autophagy over the past 2 decades, a process used by cells to throw out toxic substances that endanger their health, and have discovered the process also helps protect against many age related diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders, as published in the journal Nature.
Discovery which brought about the questions as to whether boosting natural levels of autophagy could be a safe way to improve health and extend life. To investigate researchers genetically engineered model mice with mutations in beclin 1, which had previously been found that the gene which makes the protein drives autophagy, mutation prevents it from binding to autophagy inhibiting protein Bcl-2; the mutation resulted in mice born with highly level of autophagy persistently and the animals living 10% longer, less likely to develop heart disease, age related cancer, and kidney problems, according to the researchers.
This study was built on previous work showing genetically engineered mice seem to be protected against natural decline in autophagy occurring with age. In this study it was observed mice with increased levels of autophagy are protected from klotho hormone loss, which has been proven to regulate metabolism and longevity, and is the target of several research programs with goals of combating diseases of aging. Klothos has also inspired the startup Klogene which is working on developing new approaches to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Next step for the researchers is to develop drugs that disrupt the ability of beclin 1 to bind to Bcl-2 and increase autophagy. Researchers say that these studies hold important implications for health and development of drugs to improve it, showing that strategies to increase cellular housekeeping pathway of autophagy may slow aging and age related diseases.
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