Published on February 15th, 20140
Researchers can now predict how long we live by looking at mitochondria
The scientists were able to predict the life of a particular animal species, by means of a method which may be applied in humans. They say that the secret lies in the study of mitochondria activity, the “power plants” of the cell.
By observing the increased activity of mitochondria - cellular organs where power is generated - we can predict how long that life form has to live, say geneticists at the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing, China. They recently published their findings in an article in the journal Nature.
Their results suggest that, to a large extent the life of an organism can be predicted early in its life.
Researchers studied very small (about 1 mm) nematode worms, Caenorhabditis elegans, they have introduced certain proteins that emit light when detecting certain injuries to the mitochondria.
Specialists believe that the accumulation of free radicals, molecules derived from cellular metabolism, is one of the factors favoring the aging process. Free radicals cause changes in DNA structure through this mechanism leads to aging of cells and the entire organism. The mitochondria, which also contain DNA (mitochondria DNA), are especially vulnerable to attack by free radicals because they have a high metabolic activity, producing large amounts of free radicals, but no mechanism of DNA repair.
Chinese researchers found that the number of light emissions of proteins introduced into mitochondria (mito-flashes, as they called them) is influenced by the presence of free radicals and can predict the life span of an organism.
Chinese specialists studied worms who live normally approx. 21 days and a maximum of reproductive capacity at 3 days of age.
The researchers found that those individuals who had fewer mito-flashes at 3 days of age, live longer, while those who had multiple sites mito-flashes die before reaching 21 days.
It was observed also that the worms present a specific genetic mutation, who live up to 39 days, had fewer mito-flashes than normal worms.
Pattern was observed when the researchers exposed worms to short periods of starvation and heat shock.
Mitochondria theory of aging was proposed in 1972 and remains controversial. Chinese researchers have conducted experiments considers that it is valid and that their results confirmed.
“Mitochondrial flashes have an amazing power to predict the remaining lifespan in animals“, said study leader, Prof. Meng- Qiu Dong. “There is truth in the mitochondrial theory of ageing“.
Source: Mail Online