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Tweaking Insulin Might Help Fight Aging
Date:3/20/2008

ritters survived the 2003 Space Shuttle disaster intact, although their tiny lifespans prevented them from appreciating their brush with death for very long.

The Joslin researchers found that more insulin results in less activity by a gene-regulating protein called SKN-1. So, by lowering insulin levels, the study authors were able to boost levels of the protein and make the worms live longer.

The mechanism at work here seems to relate to how well cells defend themselves against damage. "From just being alive, your body is creating its own free radicals that can cause damage," Blackwell explained. "Your body has its own antioxidant systems that clean up damage and protect you from damage. We were able to push the activity of that system upward and make the animals live longer."

Previous research has shown that insulin controls the activity of another protein, known as FOXO, that also regulates genes.

The potential impact on people with diabetes is unclear. Diabetics are unable to produce enough insulin: people with the rarer type 1 diabetes produce no insulin, while those with type 2 diabetes don't produce enough.

Blackwell believes that the research does hold hope for people with a variety of diseases. "We're understanding more about mechanisms that can be harnessed in a way that pushes back this tide of cellular damage," he said. "There's a lot of therapeutic potential to defend against chronic diseases and potentially expand lifespans."

More information

There's more on insulin at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.



SOURCES: T. Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, Harvard Medical School, and senior investigator, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston. March 21, 2008, Cell.


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