Is a mask key for healthy aging?
Unfortunately, life expectancy, which has steadily increased over the past few decades, has not helped improve the health and quality of life of people of old age to the same extent. This is why researchers are looking for ways to increase the quality of life in old age. A newly discovered gene in worms could now answer.
A recent study by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) identified a gene associated with the healthy aging of the round worm C. elegans in a mask. The results of the study have been published in the English language "G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics."
Age-related exercise is an indicator of health
A gene called elpc-2 has been identified in the roundworm C. elegans, which plays an important role in maintaining good health when the mask ages . Snakes with defects in this gene show movement disorders in old age. Movement in old age is itself an indicator of human and mask health. This gene is preserved in humans, the researchers report. "As we get older, some people maintain their full mobility, while others do not, and we want to understand the genetic reasons," explains study author Dr. Kazuto Kawamura from the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology said in a press release.
C. elegance is well suited for studying aging
This gene is one of many genes that play an important role in healthy aging. A new experimental approach makes it possible to study hundreds of worms simultaneously, which can be useful for other research in the future. The Elpc-2 gene is expressed throughout the body by C. elegans. It plays an important role in the ability to move as the worms grow older. C. elegans is a useful model for studying aging, since worms have a short life span and can be easily manipulated in the laboratory. The researchers introduced random mutations into the genome of these worms. By studying the progeny of the mutant masks, it was possible to analyze which mutations impaired their health.
How was the experiment established?
The researchers examined whether the organisms could develop their ability to become food sources to move, to stay when they get older. For this, the worms were placed in the middle of a bowl of food at the edge of the bowl. The masks move in nature in the direction of food, provided their movement does not deteriorate. All worms that failed to feed on the first day were removed from the experiment. The authors wanted to find out how the exercise ability decreases with age. The remaining worms were tested when they were older, with the same approach. In this latter test, several worms were identified with movement disorders. These were then sequenced and their DNA compared to that of a normal mask to locate the mutations and identify the responsible genes.
What is the Elongator complex?
Creating hundreds of random mutations was not so much for the researchers difficult. More problematic was finding out which mutation is responsible for affecting the ability to move. But with the new approach of worms that crawl to a food source at the edge of the shell, the motility of hundreds of worms can be tested at the same time, the authors explain. In this way, the researchers identified the gene elpc-2 and its role in the health of the masks. The gene encodes part of the so-called elongator complex, which has many important functions, including the control of proper protein folding. Some of these proteins may, in turn, play a role in locomotives. Snakes with a damaged elpc-2 gene lacked a functioning length complex, which explains why the movement deteriorated. To confirm this, the researchers injected these worms with a copy of the gene and the movement was restored.
Further research will take place in Germany
Interestingly, other genes were also identified that also had a strong impact on health, but not on the lifetime of life, the authors report. In other words, the underlying mutations had no major impact on how long a worm lives, but how it moves. This shows that, while health and longevity overlap, the genetic basis is different, the researchers explain. In the future, study author Kawamura wants to explore other genes that are important for healthy aging. "When we have a more complete picture of the genes involved, we can begin to manipulate them to improve health, first with C. elegans and perhaps once with people," the author says. Kawamura will now continue his work with C. elegans at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Aging Biology in Germany. (19659015) Sources:
- Kazuto Kawamura, Ichiro N. Maruyama: Forward Genetic screen for Caenorhabditis elegans Mutants with an abbreviated Lokomotor Healthspan, in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics (Inquiry: 14.07. 2019), G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
- New gene linked to healthy aging in worms, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (request: 07/14/2019), OIST