Science

Anti-aging enzyme discovery raises prospect of lifespan extension

Anti-aging enzyme discovery ra...
New research has shed light on an enzyme that has been linked to longer lifespan
New research has shed light on an enzyme that has been linked to longer lifespan
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New research has shed light on an enzyme that has been linked to longer lifespan
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New research has shed light on an enzyme that has been linked to longer lifespan

A study from researchers at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) is providing new insights into a cellular energy pathway that has been linked to longer lifespan. The research, conducted in human cells and roundworms, raises the prospect of anti-aging therapeutics that can extend lifespan by activating this pathway.

AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) is an enzyme that acts as a metabolic master switch. It has been described as a “magic bullet” protein, conferring broad beneficial health effects, from improving cardiovascular health to extending lifespan. It is activated in response to low cellular energy levels, as is often seen during exercise or periods of caloric restriction.

An increasing volume of study has found activating AMPK in animal models leads to notable increases in lifespan, prompting a surge in research investigating this enzyme.

The new KAIST study focused on this pathway in a tiny roundworm, caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), often used by researchers as a model to investigate lifespan. The researchers discovered an enzyme called VRK-1 works in tandem with AMPK to regulate cellular energy processes.

Boosting VRK-1 activity in the roundworms extended the organism’s lifespan by stimulating AMPK activity, and inhibiting the enzyme reduced its lifespan. Moving to laboratory cell tests the researchers verified this VRK-1 to AMPK mechanism does seem to occur in human cells, suggesting it is possible the lifespan-extending results may be replicated in human subjects.

“This raises the intriguing possibility that VRK-1 also functions as a factor in governing human longevity, and so perhaps we can start developing longevity-promoting drugs that alter the activity of VRK-1,” explains Seung-Jae V. Lee, who lead the new research.

It is still extraordinarily early days for the research, and the next steps will be to explore the effects of modulating VRK-1 activity in more complex animal models such as rodents. Lee says the success in replicating this VRK-1 to AMPK mechanism in human cells suggests the pathway may be relevant in a number of complex organisms, but it is still unclear how this could be harnessed for therapeutic outcomes.

The new study was published in the journal Science Advances.

Source: KAIST

10 comments
paul314
Cue the rush for people to start selling supplements...
Aross
Not sure if this would be a good idea unless the longevity is accompanied by excellent health. There too many people in the world as it is and keeping people alive longer is only going to increase the population. People living longer but in poor health is just going to put more pressure on health care services.
Focusing on curing and eliminating diseases and allowing people to live longer that way would be more beneficial.
Cryptonoetic
Hundreds of these announcements have been made here and elsewhere over the past 20 years. I have seen nothing come of any of them. Just another immortalist porn piece.
guzmanchinky
Excellent!
Nelson Hyde Chick
Damn, there are already too many of us already, this will just make that problem worse. Say offer this to only people that have one or no children, and anyone that has more than two children should be barred from this treatment.
J-P
No. AMPK activates under stress conditions and will slow cell proliferation, and even inhibits cell death, to a point, meaning cells stick around longer than normal. For normally short lived organisms that means nothing, but for long lived organisms the damages DNA gets from other sources besides replication will still accumulate at the same rate. Which gives higher probability for tumors. I'm sad google put this on my feed.
bwana4swahili
And the thousand year search for the fountain of youth continues... The elixir of internal life!!
Robert Strong
While VRK is new. There are numerous compounds that activate AMPK. Metaformin, Berberine and Silymarin (Milk thistle) come immediately to mind. But if you don’t want to take supplements exercising regularly, losing weight, intermittent fasting all boost AMPK.
AMPK plays a role in everything from diabetes to fibromyalgia.
I take berberine to help with arthritis pain. AMPK also mitigates inflammation. To Aross’ point in my mind the whole point of life extension is not necessarily to live to be 200. But live in good health as long as we can. At least that’s my goal.
Saigvre
Well, it's hard to come out and say it raises badassery in a journal paper. Holy cow Robert Strong, you got on top of it a ways, nice going. Clinical use sounds like a good application for this kind of thing; if you can't get a person to HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen) in time to recover, you'd want things like this and nicotinamide mononucleoside (NMD) to knock down damages while the patient becomes accessible to treatment. Picking test animals and organelles sounds like more fun than offering immortalist porn (or Incel Modern porn, if that take makes you laugh and draw expectations toward Solid Snake games with architectural and reusability challenges.)
Saigvre
@cryptonoetic I think you may have overlooked 100 clinical use medications and 40 lab culture applications on the way to saying we got 0 immortal people out of it, which is the case until you can 'respawn' from 'save points' IRL. Even being able to say what kind of immortality you'd demand would be saying something; is it acceptable if your dog chooses the save to use out of 4? 3 times out of 20? What if it merely made it possible to exercise at a 9 when you're doing 4s?