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Fruit fly intestine may hold secret to the fountain of youth
Date:11/2/2011

his, they used genetic engineering techniques to boost the activity of the fruit fly equivalent of the PCG-1 gene. The flies (known as Drosophila melanogaster) have a short lifespan, allowing the scientists to study aging and longevity in ways that aren't as feasible in longer-lived organisms such as mice or human.

The researchers found that boosting the activity of dPGC-1, the fruit fly version of the gene, resulted in greater numbers of mitochondria and more energy-production in flies - the same phenomenon seen in organisms on calorie restricted diets. When the activity of the gene was accelerated in stem and progenitor cells of the intestine, which serve to replenish intestinal tissues, these cellular changes correspond with better health and longer lifespan. The flies lived between 20 and 50 percent longer, depending on the method and extent to which the activity of the gene was altered.

"Their intestines were beautiful," says Christopher L. Koehler, a doctoral-student at University of California San Diego who conducts research in Jones' laboratory. "The flies with the modified gene activity were much more active and robust than the other flies."

Part of the reason for this might be that boosting the fruit fly version of PCG-1 stimulates the stem cells that replenish the intestinal tissues, keeping the flies' intestines healthier. The findings suggest that the fruit fly version of PCG-1 can act as a biological dial for slowing the aging process and might serve as a target for drugs or other therapies to put the breaks on aging and age-related diseases.

"Slowing the aging of a single, important organ - in this case the intestine - could have a dramatic effect on overall health and longevity," Jones says. "In a disease that affects multiple tissues, for instance, you might focus on keeping one organ healthy, and to do that you might be able to utilize PGC-1."


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Contact: Andy Hoang
Ahoang@salk.edu
619-861-5811
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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