/The Secret to Immortality Unveiled

The Secret to Immortality Unveiled

“Ageing is an irreversible process from which none of us can escape from”

Pause for a moment before reinstating the statement again, the aging can now be reversed!

In a revolutionary breakthrough, the UNSW (University of New South Wales) and Harvard researchers identified the most critical step in the molecular process through which our body repairs a damaged DNA. The discovery, with its indefinite scope ranging from space travel to medical treatment to the much dreamed anti-aging drugs, is definitely a watershed event in biomedical gerontological studies.

Research team at UNSW
Professor David Sinclair (front) and Dr. Lindsay Wu (far left) with the UNSW research team | © UNSW Newsroom

Like all our tissues and organs become inefficient as we age, the innate capability of our cells to repair the damaged DNA also reduces by aging. Moreover, our exposure to different kinds of radiation when we go out into the sun, while taking X-rays or CT scan, during mobile phone conversations etc. will further catalyze the DNA damage.

DNA is the book of our life. Like all the meaningful words in a book, there are numerous proteins in the DNA each having specific functions assigned to it. Certain proteins which possessed Nudix Homology Domains (NHD) had no known functions until when these researchers found that they are NAD+ binding domains which can regulate protein-protein interactions. They also found that DBC1 (Deleted breast cancer 1) protein contains the NHD domain which binds with the NAD+, the oxidized state of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) which is a coenzyme found in all living cells.

Poly Adenosine diphosphate Ribose Polymerase (PARP1) is a critical DNA repairing enzyme found in our body cells. The crucial process of DBC1-NAD+ binding opposes the interaction of DCB1 with the PARP1, which frees the enzyme for DNA repair. At our younger ages, the NAD+ is seen in abundance in our cells, which inhibits the DCB1-PARP1 binding allowing smooth DNA repair. As we get older, the NAD+ becomes less abundant and the PARP1 activity is inhibited by its binding with DCB1. This novel understanding throws the possibility of reversing the aging by supplementing extra NAD+ to the cells which increase the damage repairing activity. And this is what exactly the team has successfully experimented, not in humans but in mice.

The researchers treated old mice by injecting Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) proteins, which is an NAD+ booster. As confirmed by Professor David Sinclair of UNSW School of Medical Sciences and Harvard Medical School Boston “the cells of old mice were indistinguishable from young mice after just one week of treatment.” He also informed that human trials of NMN therapy will begin this year at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The discovery offers a solution to the biological problem of accelerated aging of astronauts due to cosmic radiations in space. The work has excited NASA very much, which is considering the challenge of keeping the astronauts healthy during a four-year mission to Mars and the talks are already on swing,

If the NMN therapy in the humans turns out to be a success, it hugely benefits the childhood cancer survivors, most of whom will be suffering from numerous chronic diseases by their age of 45 which are unrelated to original cancer, all which accelerates the aging.

Moreover, time is not so far when we reach out to our nearby chemist asking for an anti-aging pill just like now we ask for a painkiller. As Prof. Sinclair rightly told,”This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well”.

Information:

  • The story is based on a research featured in Science
  • Title: A conserved NAD+ binding pocket that regulates protein-protein interactions during aging
  • Author: Jun Li et al.
  • Journal: American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • DOI: 10.1126/science.aad8242
  • Image Courtesy: UNSW Newsroom
  • Courtesy for the two Statements From Professor David Sinclair (Italics and Bold formatted ): UNSW Newsroom
Cite this article as: Sethu S Kumar, Author, "The Secret to Immortality Unveiled," in Good Morning Science, May 19, 2017, https://gmsciencein.com/2017/05/19/the-secret-to-immortality-unveiled/.
Sethu S Kumar is a Science Communicator based in Kolkata. He is a mechanical engineering graduate, currently doing his masters in science communication from BITS Pilani and National Council of Science Museums.