Achieving longer life suggests that there's an effect on the aging of somatic cells the cells that make up the body and organs of an organism.
"That's the really interesting thing about this," said Ahmed, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. "What we've found implies that there's some sort of relationship between somatic cell aging and this germ line immortality process we've been studying."
What that relationship is, precisely, remains unknown. But so does the exact mechanism by which human somatic cells age as they divide throughout our lives. That is, exactly how we age at the cellular level is still not entirely understood.
"The field is fairly open in terms of what might cause aging of somatic cells," Ahmed said. "What makes our study unique is that we've found something that could be transmitted over many generations that could affect aging but is not necessarily a genetic mutation. Instead, whatever is being transmitted likely affects how a segment of the genome is silenced, and that genome segment can be modulated by a genetic mutation."
Think of it like this: when you were born, there could have been something in the reproductive cells of your parents that triggered how the somatic cells of your liver or kidneys would age after you were born.
"This inheritable factor could be dictating the rate at which some of your organs are aging," Ahmed said, "and this may have been set during embryogenesis."
|Contact: Mark Derewicz|
University of North Carolina Health Care