Good signs for new therapy that promotes healthy aging
While aging remains an unavoidable part of life, scientists are getting ever closer to developing therapies that could significantly improve the experience. Following on from earlier studies that saw hydrogen sulfide donor molecule AP39 revive aging cell health, researchers at the University of Exeter have had more promising results out of their animal trials.
Targeting the mitochondria within the cells of the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, the hydrogen sulphide (H2S) treatment was able to boost the health of aging cells, keeping muscles active and in good shape well into old age.
A loss of function within mitochondria, our cellular power stations, is not just linked to the general physiological decline of aging but also neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and muscular dystrophy, among others.
“Worms are a powerful genetic tool to study human health and disease and offer a strong platform to quickly identify new potential therapeutics,” said senior author Tim Etheridge, professor at the University of Exeter. “Diseases related to aging take a huge toll on society. Our results indicate that H2S, administered to specific parts of the cell in tiny quantities, could one day be used to help people live healthier for longer.”
The team also identified for the first time some key transcription factors that AP39 targets. This has the potential for therapies that could regulate the way genes are expressed in aging, staving off disease and maintaining a better quality of life in later years.
“This study is not about extending life – it’s about living healthier lives well into older age,” said co-author Matt Whiteman, professor at the University of Exeter “This could have huge benefits to society. We’re excited to see this research move to the next stages over the coming years, and hope it will one day form the basis of new treatments.”
While some lifespan benefits were seen in the worms that were treated with H2S, the researchers say this sort of therapy would instead put the focus on aging healthier, and maintaining quality of life.
“We saw a small extension of lifespan in the worms that were targeted with H2S, and what’s unique here is that we extended healthspan – or the time they lived healthy lives,” Whiteman added. “The worms still died, albeit later than normally expected, but they died very active and with young physiology.”
While a silver bullet for anti-aging is unlikely, therapies targeting cellular function and gene expression are edging closer to reality, and healthy mitochondrial function looks increasingly pivotal in staving off age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: University of Exeter