KEY POINTS

  • Scientists from the University of California San Diego used yeast to study how the aging process works
  • The findings can open the possibility of rationally designing chemical-based therapies or genes to reprogram aging of human cells
  • The goal was to delay human aging and extend health-span

Scientists may be closer to slowing down the aging process, according to a new study. Health experts said the findings will provide mankind with the ability to delay aging and the illnesses that come along with it.

A team of scientists from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) used yeast to study how the aging process works, CNN reported. They chose the single-celled fungi because its cells were easy to manipulate, allowing them to understand better if different types of cells age synchronously.

slowing down aging slowing down aging Photo: Sabine van Erp - Pixabay

During the study, researchers said they made an intriguing discovery. They found cells, even those consisting of identical genetic materials and exposed to the same environment, aged in totally "distinct ways." The scientists published their discovery in the journal Science.

Nan Hao, an associate professor at UCSD and senior author of the study, explained how their study on single-cell aging can open the possibility of rationally designing chemical-based therapies or genes to reprogram the aging of human cells, said in a statement released to the press. The goal, he stated, was to delay human aging and extend health-span.

Using several techniques which include microfluidics and computer modeling, scientists learned a gradual decline in the nucleolus caused aging to around 50% of yeast cells. The nucleolus is a round body situated in the nucleus of a cell.

On the other hand, dysfunction of mitochondria caused the aging of the other half of the yeast cells. Mitochondria are responsible for generating most of the energy required to power the biochemical reactions of a cell. Scientists revealed that early in life, the cells go in one of the two paths, namely, nuclear or mitochondrial. The cells continue with their aging route until they eventually decline and die.

Scientists conducted other tests to better understand how cells behave.

"To understand how cells make these decisions, we identified the molecular processes underlying each aging route and the connections among them, revealing a molecular circuit that controls cell aging, analogous to electric circuits that control home appliances," Hao told CNN.

After simulating the "aging landscape," researchers discovered they could engineer and optimize the aging process using computer modeling to reorganize the master circuit and make some changes to its DNA. This allowed researchers to construct a "novel aging route," with a considerably extended lifespan. According to scientists, the process could eventually lead to the likelihood of delaying aging.

"This is an aging path that never existed, but because we understand how it is regulated, we can basically design or regulate a new aging path," Hao added.