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In scientific first, Einstein researchers correct decline in organ function associated with old age
Date:8/10/2008

(BRONX, NY) As people age, their cells become less efficient at getting rid of damaged protein resulting in a buildup of toxic material that is especially pronounced in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Now, for the first time, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have prevented this age-related decline in an entire organ the liver and shown that, as a result, the livers of older animals functioned as well as they did when the animals were much younger. Published in the online edition of Nature Medicine, these findings suggest that therapies for boosting protein clearance might help stave off some of the declines in function that accompany old age. The study's senior author was Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, associate professor in the departments of developmental & molecular biology, medicine and anatomy & structural biology at Einstein.

The cells of all organisms have several surveillance systems designed to find, digest and recycle damaged proteins. Many studies have documented that these processes become less efficient with age, allowing protein to gradually accumulate inside cells. But aging researchers continue debating whether this protein buildup actually contributes to the functional losses of aging or instead is merely associated with those losses. The Einstein study was aimed at resolving the controversy.

One of these surveillance systems responsible for handling 30 percent or more of damaged cellular protein uses molecules known as chaperones to seek out damaged proteins. After finding such a protein, the chaperone ferries it towards one of the cell's many lysosomes membrane-bound sacs filled with enzymes. When the chaperone and its cargo "dock" on a receptor molecule on the lysosome's surface, the damaged protein is drawn into the lysosome and rapidly digested by its enzymes.

In previous work, Dr. Cuervo found that the chaperone su
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Contact: Karen Gardner
kgardner@aecom.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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