Researchers are always trying to come up with ways to prevent diseases, and other ailments, in humans. Decades of research has shown that the main cause of many illnesses is the same as that of getting older. They believe that it is possible to learn more about this cellular breakdown by observing the aging process in other species. A study involving the transparent cells of roundworms has revealed a connection between RNA splicing and an organism’s lifespan. Using this information scientists believe that they will be able to find additional ways of fighting disease, and slowing down aging in humans.
RNA splicing is the cellular process by which a single gene is able to produce a variety of proteins. Any mutation that occurs during RNA splicing normally results in disease, and may be the reason for our body’s getting older. In order to gain more knowledge about the aging process, researchers conducted experiments with the Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm. This species has a three week lifespan, during which they show obvious signs of aging.
Fluorescent genetic tools made it possible to see the roundworms’ transparent cells, and the scientists observed certain patterns during RNA splicing of the individual genes. Using the ones that showed premature aging, researchers quickly learned how to predict individual roundworm lifespans before signs of aging appeared. They are confident that this discovery is the start of using RNA splicing as an early indication of aging, which can then be expanded in order to prevent or reverse these signs.
As we stop our cells from getting older, humans would also need to take precautions to maintain their health. This will allow them to live for much longer than the current average lifespan. Some of the other ways researchers believe that we might be able to combat aging are:
Using chromosome extensions to increase the rate of cell division – As we age the cells in our body lose their natural ability to replicate, resulting in aging and inevitably death. The idea behind this theory is that if we are able to extend our ability to continue cell division, we will be able to prolong our lives.
Using the drug Metformin to prevent illness and degeneration – Even though Metformin has been used to treat diabetes for in excess of 60 years, scientists are currently testing the theory that the drug is beneficial to our body’s cells in other ways. Research has shown that it might be able to prevent some forms of cancer, as well as slow down aging by speeding up metabolism and cellular processes. Metformin also releases oxygen into cells, which is the building block of healthy ones.
Scientists believe that a combination of these and other methods might be the key to longevity, and research continues to find ways of increasing the number of centurions on the planet.