Navigation Links
UCLA biologists slow the aging process in fruit flies

UCLA life scientists have identified a gene that slows the aging process.

The biologists, working with fruit flies, activated a gene called PGC-1, which increases the activity of mitochondria, the tiny power generators in cells that control cell growth and tell cells when to live and die.

"We took this gene and boosted its activity in different cells and tissues of the fly and asked whether this impacts the aging process," said David Walker, an assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and a senior author of the study. "We discovered that when we boost PGC-1 within the fly's digestive tract, the fly lives significantly longer. We also studied neurons, muscle and other tissue types and did not find life extension; this is telling us there is something important about the digestive tract."

The research appears in the current online edition of Cell Metabolism, the leading journal in its field, and will be published in an upcoming print edition. Co-authors are from Walker's laboratory, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., and the department of biology at UC San Diego.

"By activating this one gene in this one tissue the intestine the fly lives longer; we slow aging of the intestine, and that has a positive effect on the whole animal," said Walker, a member of UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute. "Our study shows that increasing PGC-1 gene activity in the intestine can slow aging, both at the cellular level and at the level of the whole animal."

The biologists delayed the aging of the flies' intestines and extended their lives by as much as 50 percent.

Fruit flies, or Drosophila melanogaster, have a life span of about two months. They start showing signs of aging after about one month, and they slow down, become less active and die, Walker said. They are a great model for studying aging, he said, because scientists know every one of their genes and can switch individual genes on and off.

What are the study's implications for human aging?

"We all think about protecting the brain and the heart, but the intestine is a vital tissue type for healthy aging," Walker said. "If anything goes wrong with the mitochondria in cells, the consequences could be devastating, and if anything goes wrong with our intestines, that may have devastating consequences for other tissue types and organs. Not only is the intestine essential for the uptake of nutrients that are a vital source of energy, but it is also an important barrier that protects us from toxins and pathogens in the environment. The intestine has to be well-maintained.

"No one yet knows what causes aging at the cellular or tissue level," Walker said. "As we age, our mitochondria become less efficient and less active. That has far-reaching consequences, because if the mitochondria decline, then all of our cellular functions may be compromised. However, it's a dangerous road to travel to say, 'This is the cause of aging.'"

The PGC-1 gene activates the cells' mitochondria and regulates mitochondrial activity in mammals and flies. The gene is a potential target for pharmaceuticals to combat age-related diseases, Walker said.

The study raises the question of whether increasing mitochondrial activity is an effective strategy to delay aging. If so, increasing the PGC-1 gene may prove key, Walker said.

The first question Walker and his colleagues asked was whether the fruit fly version of PGC-1 has the same function as the mammalian version. They found it does.

The biologist increased levels of expression of the fly version of the PGC-1 gene and found that this made mitochondria more active. They then tested whether boosting PGC-1 activity would slow aging and, again, they found that it did, when they focused on the fly's digestive tract.

The fly's intestine is maintained by adult stem cells, previous research has shown. The biologists also asked what would happen if they used genetic and molecular tools to boost PGC-1 gene expression within only the stem cells and their immediate "daughter" cells.

"Collaborating with a stem cell group at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, we boosted the gene expression within just the stem- and the immediate daughter-cell types and found that was sufficient to extend the life span of the flies," said Walker, who studies the basic underlying mechanisms of the aging process.

In addition, increasing the fruit fly's version of PGC-1 delays the onset of cellular changes within the intestine, thereby establishing a link between mitochondria, tissue stem cells and aging, the new study shows.

"Many scientists study the diseases of aging, and they tend to do so individually," Walker said. "One group will study Alzheimer's disease, another group will study cardiovascular disease, another will study cancer. We take a different approach. We don't single out any of these specific diseases of old age. We study the aging process itself. Aging is the No. 1 risk factor for most cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and many others."

Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

Related biology news :

1. Biologists use flies and mice to get to the heart of Down syndrome
2. Do bacteria age? Biologists discover the answer follows simple economics
3. American Society of Plant Biologists supports science outreach by grad students and postdocs
4. NYU biologists use Sinatra-named fly to show how to see the blues -- and the greens
5. FSU biologists fish for reasons behind endangered groupers comeback
6. Pitt biologists find surprising number of unknown viruses in sewage
7. UC San Diego biologists discover genes that repair nerves after injury
8. Biologists discovery may force revision of biology textbooks
9. Team led by IU biologists confirms sunflower domesticated in US, not Mexico
10. Open minded and open access: NeoBiota, a new publishing platform for invasion biologists
11. Plant biologists dissect genetic mechanism enabling plants to overcome environmental challenge
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
UCLA biologists slow the aging process in fruit flies
(Date:11/12/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 11, 2015   ... and reliable analytical tools has been paving the ... and qualitative determination of discrete analytes in clinical, ... sensors are being predominantly used in medical applications, ... and environmental sectors due to continuous emphasis on ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... , Nov. 09, 2015 ... addition of the "Global Law Enforcement ... offering. --> ) has ... Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report ... and Markets ( ) has announced ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , ... entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce ... Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only three finalists ... "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... the request of IIROC on behalf of the Toronto ... this news release there are no corporate developments that ... price. --> --> ... --> . --> Aeterna Zentaris ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics ... (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) ... Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing and several new model aviation ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share ... Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject ... were exercised on November 23, 2015, which will ... Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Creation Technologies would like ... to Deloitte's 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the fastest growing companies in ... Class II medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth movement by as much ...
Breaking Biology Technology: