Scientists successfully slow down cell aging with gene circuit rewiring

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Aging is a natural process that happens to all living things.

But what if scientists could find a way to slow down the aging process?

That’s exactly what a group of researchers from the University of California San Diego have done.

Cells in our bodies have gene circuits that control how they age.

These circuits work like our home electric circuits that control appliances like lights and refrigerators.

Just like a car that ages when either the engine or the transmission wears out, cells can age in different ways.

The researchers found that cells don’t necessarily age the same way when they’re under the control of a central gene regulatory circuit.

The scientists wanted to find a way to keep cells from deteriorating, which is a normal part of aging. They came up with a “smart aging process” that extends cellular longevity by cycling deterioration from one aging mechanism to another.

It’s like going back and forth between using two different engines to power a car, so neither one gets too worn out. This slows down the cell’s degeneration and can help it live longer.

To achieve this, the researchers rewired the circuit that controls cell aging. They engineered a negative feedback loop to stall the aging process.

The rewired circuit operates like a clock, called a gene oscillator, that drives the cell to periodically switch between two detrimental “aged” states, avoiding prolonged commitment to either. This slows down the cell’s degeneration and can help it live longer.

The researchers used computer simulations to test their ideas before modifying the circuit in cells. This saved them time and resources. It helped them identify effective strategies to slow down the aging process.

During their research, the team studied yeast cells as a model for the aging of human cells. They developed and employed microfluidics and time-lapse microscopy to track the aging processes across the cell’s lifespan.

In the current study, yeast cells that were synthetically rewired and aged under the direction of the synthetic oscillator device resulted in an 82% increase in lifespan compared with control cells that aged under normal circumstances.

This is a significant increase in lifespan!

“Our oscillator cells live longer than any of the longest-lived strains previously identified by unbiased genetic screens,” said Professor Nan Hao, the senior author of the study and co-director of UC San Diego’s Synthetic Biology Institute.

This research provides evidence that slowing the ticks of the aging clock is possible by actively preventing cells from committing to a pre-destined path of decline and death. The clock-like gene oscillators could be a universal system to achieve that.

The team is currently expanding their research to the aging of diverse human cell types, including stem cells and neurons. They want to apply their method to promote longevity in complex organisms.

This is exciting news because it means that we may one day be able to slow down the aging process in our own bodies. That could help us live longer, healthier lives.

It’s important to note that this research is still in its early stages, and it will take time before scientists can use this technology on humans.

But it’s a step in the right direction toward finding ways to slow down the aging process and improve our health and longevity.