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Healthy Aging

Harvard Study about Healthy Aging

According to Harvard study, the lifespan may be increased by manipulating mitochondrial networks and periodical fasting.

According to the new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the health promotion and consequently increasing lifespan are caused by manipulating mitochondrial networks inside cells without any difference whether it is done by genetic manipulation or dietary restriction.

This study has also shown how the measures such as fasting periods may promote healthy aging.

The study (published Oct. 26 online in Cell Metabolism), has demonstrated that cells’ declining ability to produce energy with time gives rise to aging age-related disease.

The energy-producing structures in cells — mitochondria — existed in networks which rapidly change forms in accordance with energy demand. With age, their ability to do that diminishes, but the effect it has on cellular function and metabolism has not been clear earlier. The longevity and a causal connection between rapid changes in the shapes of mitochondrial networks have been demonstrated in this study.

Scientists use C. elegans (nematode worms), the longevity of which is just two weeks and thereby allows the study of aging in the lab. Mitochondrial networks inside cells have the tendency to switch between fused and fragmented states. It was proved that the limiting the worms’ diet, or imitating dietary restriction through genetic manipulation of energy-sensing protein which is called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), sustained the mitochondrial networks in a ‘youthful’ state. The researchers have also found that the lifespan increased because of these youthful networks, this occurs with the help of communication with organelles called peroxisomes in order to modulate fat metabolism.

It was found that healthy aging might be promoted by the dietary restriction and intermittent fasting (low-energy conditions). Although the way aging can be slowed by intermittent fasting that was shown before, the researchers are only at the source of understanding the underlying biology as said William Mair, senior author of the study and associate professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School. William Mair also mentioned that their work proves the benefits of fasting and shows the whole importance of the plasticity of mitochondria networks. According to his words, if mitochondria are locked in one state, the effects of dietary restriction or fasting on longevity are blocked completely.

The way the mitochondrial networks influence fasting in mammals is the next thing the researchers are going to discover. The connection between obesity and increased risk for age-related diseases is also an interesting issue for them to test, and whether this will be explained by defects in mitochondrial flexibility.

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