These test subjects are all fruit flies, but the biologists hope and believe the same trick will work for humans. The gene is a “key energy sensor” known as AMPK. It exists naturally in both human and fruit fly cells. But it’s only activated when cellular energy is low, and it’s rarely activated at a high level.
The scientists discovered two important things--
1. When AMPK is activated at a high level, the fruit flies lived 30% longer, an impressive increase in life expectancy.
2. When the gene was activated in the intestine or nervous system, it also slowed the aging process in other vital organ systems such as the brain. This is important because delivering drugs to the brain is normally very difficult. But fortunately with this treatment, it won’t be necessary.
“Instead of studying the diseases of aging: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes… one by one, we believe it may be possible to intervene in the aging process and delay the onset of many of these diseases,” said David Walker, the senior author on the study and an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA. “We are not there yet, and it could of course take many years, but that is our goal, and we think it is realistic.”
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