A group of scientists led a life extension world record holder has determined that stabilising gene networks is key to switching off the process of ageing.
The team, from Hong Kong-based biohacking company Gero, comprises experts from a vast array of different scientific backgrounds, alongside Professor Robert J Shmookler Reis, the current world record holder in life extension for model animals, and has just published research on the subject in the journal Scientific Reports.
“In our work, we analyzed the stability of a simple gene network model and found that gene networks describing most common species are inherently unstable,” explained Dr Peter Fedichev, CSO of Gero.
“Over time, it undergoes exponential accumulation of gene regulation deviations leading to diseases and death.
“We conjectured, that the instability is the cause of aging. However, should the repair systems be sufficiently effective, the gene network can stabilize so that the damage to the gene regulation can remain constrained along with mortality of the organism.”
This theory is supported by the genetic networks of animals that do not experience a decline in function or a rise in mortality as they get older. The team gave the example of naked mole rats, which are negligibly senescent – ie they barely age – and have highly stress-resistant tissue due to the stability of their gentic networks.
By contrast, humans’ genetic networks are very unstable, resulting in a decline in human tissue’s ability to reproduce, regenerate and resist stress, resulting in our increase in mortality and decline in function as we age.
These differences are caused by a small number of major factors, including how effective genes are connected as a network, the rate DNA repairs itself, the turnover of proteome – the proteins expressed by a gene – and genome size, and the team at Gero believes that lifespan can be altered by ‘hacking’ any of these aspects.
This has already been achieved in a type of worm – C. elegans – creating a lifespan ten times the norm with a single gene mutation, and it is thought that it can be achieved in other creatures with further work.
Gero is working with the intention of creating anti-ageing treatments, and believes that this approach is key to creating such therapeutics.
“We want to create a drug that will significantly extend a healthy and happy human life,” said the company on their website.
“The relation between stresses, stress resistance and aging is analyzed and demonstrates that damage to gene regulation from stresses encountered even at a very young age can persist for a very long time and influence lifespan,” explained the company in a media release to accompany the publication of the research.
“That is why we believe that further research into the relation between gene network stability and aging will make it possible to create entirely new therapies with potentially strong and lasting effect against age-related diseases and aging itself.”