A recent study published in the journal Nature suggests that a group of German scientists may have made a breakthrough in slowing down the aging process in humans. Scientists, from the University of Cologne, discovered a key process in gene transcription that could explain how aging works.
The process used by RNA to copy pieces of DNA is the key in question, as the researchers found that this process becomes less precise and speeds up as we age, leading to errors. However, the researchers also found that this process may be malleable, meaning that we could use certain processes to reverse the changes caused by gene transcription.
Dr. Andreas Beyer, one of the researchers involved in the study, said that previous studies had only focused on why humans age and which genes were involved in the process. Beyer and his colleagues believe that gene transcription is a foundational piece of the puzzle and understanding how it changes as we age could be useful in slowing the aging process.
The researchers believe that gene transcription plays a vital role in making the proteins needed by the body’s cells. If the process messes up the copy, then it can result in an imperfect copy with errors, which could affect vital genetic information.
When a slice of DNA with errors is being copied by RNA, it leads to flawed information being used to create proteins that determine the health and function of cells. Proteins are the purpose driver for cells, and if they are not delivering flawless information, then it could cause problems.
This flawed transcription could be one of the key factors in slowing human aging, but stopping RNA from doing its job badly is a challenge. Beyer and his team discovered that a low-calorie diet might be one way to achieve this.
Previous research has shown that a low-calorie diet and the way the body signals for insulin can affect how certain animals age. Beyer and his team conducted experiments on genetically modified fruit flies, mice, and worms that inhibited insulin signaling. The animals lived 10 to 20 percent longer than their non-mutant counterparts, including mice that were placed on a low-calorie diet.
The researchers also tested the research in human blood and found that it reacted similarly, with RNA slowing down its transcription process and making fewer errors.
This process could be altered to slow human aging and potentially prevent late-life diseases like cancer from manifesting due to errors in the transcription process. Additionally, it could provide a better understanding of the aging process, potentially leading to the ability to stop aging entirely.