SCIENTISTS have potentially found a way to extend human life after discovering a pathway that controls ageing.
A molecular pathway known as Kruppel-like transcription factors (KLFs) can be increased or decreased in terms of volume to potentially increase the lifetime of an animal.
Researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine made the discovery after artificially editing the KLF pathway in nematode worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) – a species currently used for biological research as it shares similar proteins to mammals.
First author of the study Dr Nelson Hsieh said to Sci News: “We find that by artificially increasing or decreasing the levels of a family of proteins called Kruppel-like transcription factors (KLFs), we can actually get C. elegans to live for longer or shorter time periods.
“Since this same family of proteins also exists in mammals, what is really exciting is that our data suggests KLFs also have similar effects on ageing in mammals, too.”
The researchers found that nematode worms with high levels of KLF typically lived longer and were healthier. They also found the same results in mice.
As a result, the researchers determined that KLF proteins’ function is to control autophagy – a quality control action which allows the cell to clear up molecular byproducts which build up as ageing takes its toll.
However, as the cell gets older, it is less efficient at removing this waste and eventually the cells survival is threatened.
By increasing the levels of KLF, the cells are able to perform this function for longer, the researchers believe.
Dr Hsieh added: “As our population ages, we need to understand what happens to our heart and arteries, as we rely on them to function perfectly later and later on in our lives.
“Our findings illuminate what can happen during ageing, and provide a foundation to designing interventions which slow these processes.”
senior author Professor Mukesh K Jain said: “The observation that KLF levels decrease with age and that sustained levels of KLFs can prevent the age-associated loss of blood vessel function is intriguing given that vascular dysfunction contributes significantly to diverse age-associated conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and dementia.”