UVA Researchers Discover a Novel Mechanism for Delaying Aging and Promoting Healthy Living
University of Virginia researchers have discovered a promising approach to delaying aging by detoxifying the body of glycerol and glyceraldehyde, two harmful by-products of fat that naturally accumulate over time. The team, led by Eyleen Jorgelina O’Rourke, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Biology and the UVA School of Medicine’s Department of Cell Biology, uncovered a novel mechanism they named AMAR — the Sanskrit word for “immortal” as well as an acronym for “Alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase Mediated Anti-aging Response.”
AMAR works by activating a gene, adh-1, to produce more of an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, which prevents the toxicity caused by glycerol and, indirectly, glyceraldehyde. The result is that the worms live longer and healthier lives.
The researchers tested known, lifespan-extending interventions for their ability to improve exercise capacity during aging. The physical fitness of worms whose AMPK (a molecule that regulates energy during exercise and encourages mitochondrial morphology and metabolism remodeling) was increased showed improvement. No improvement in exercise performance was observed during the aging process, however, the maintenance of existing performance was demonstrated. Engineering worms to be devoid of AMPK resulted in reduced physical fitness with age and an inability to fully recover. The lack of exercise also did not yield any benefits in terms of delaying the aging process throughout their lifespans.
Scientists believe that higher levels of glycerol and glyceraldehyde are likely due to the accumulation of fat over time, as these two substances are toxic byproducts of fat storage. Consequently, AMAR could be a potential solution to prevent fat-induced toxicity, increase the years of healthy living, and potentially aid in weight loss.
O’Rourke, a member of UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center, expressed a desire to pique interest in the development of therapeutic treatments aimed towards AMAR. The burden of age-related diseases on patients, their families, and the healthcare system is considerable, and targeting the aging process itself would be the most effective way of reducing this burden and increasing the number of years of healthy and independent living for everyone.
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