Scientists at Nottingham University may have discovered the “Fountain of Youth” hidden deep within our own cells. As we grow older, our body’s tissues and functions begin to diminish, making us more prone to neurodegenerative diseases. However, after a major breakthrough in their quest to unravel and halt the aging process, the British researchers discovered a key cellular protein that could slow down or even stop this process.
The study, led by Dr. Lisa Chakrabarti and Ph.D. student Amelia Pollard of the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, offers new hope, as it could result in the development of new treatments to slow down the effects of ageing and halt the progression of debilitating conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Eternal youth – is it possible?
The work, published in the academic journal Aging, was centered around a family of proteins called carbonic anhydrase. These proteins are found in our mitochondria, the “batteries” of our cells that convert the oxygen we breathe into energy to power our bodies.
When the scientists analyzed the brain and muscle cells from healthy young brains and adult brains of mice, they found that levels of carbonic anhydrase proteins were in greater quantity and more active in the samples of the adult mice. Furthermore, they found similar heightened levels in samples from young mice suffering from early degeneration.
To investigate whether the heightened levels of carbonic anhydrase were a result of a degenerative condition or just the body’s attempt to protect itself against the aging process, the scientists fed carbonic anhydrase to tiny nematode worms. They found that carbonic anhydrase significantly reduced the lifespan of the worms, proving its role in the aging process of cells and tissues. Their findings imply that if there is a way of removing the protein from the cells, then it could extend one’s lifespan.
Dr. Lisa Chakrabarti said: “What’s really exciting about this development is that we have been able to surmise that the function of this protein is playing a role in the ageing process within the cell. …
“This gives us a very promising start in working out how we can best target this protein within the mitochondria to slow the effects of aging in the body while limiting other unwanted side effects on the body,” she added.
As noted by Dr. Chakrabarti, this breakthrough in their research could potentially offer hope in tackling both degenerative illnesses and the general effects of aging on the body. While everybody will get old at some point, these new findings could be the answer to actively living our lives deep into old age.
According to researchers from The University of Nottingham, aging has been associated with muscle mass loss which begins at around the age of 50, and becomes more pronounced in our 60s, leading to a decrease in strength and to greater frailty.
Furthermore, an aging brain can cause cognitive impairments which affect memory, reasoning and multitasking, and can lead to dementia or other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
While the eternal youth treatment pill will not be available anytime soon, the Nottingham study could be the first step towards improving the quality and quantity of our lives as we age. Imagine if your brain could stay sharp and your muscles and bones strong, how much more you could you get out of life!