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Mitochondrial proteins regulating human ageing ‘identified’

Scientists have found mitochondrial proteins which they claim can regulate the body's ageing process.

Written by Agencies | London |
May 11, 2011 1:32:16 pm

Scientists have identified a group of mitochondrial proteins which they claim can regulate the body’s ageing process,a finding which could delay onset of age-related diseases like cancer,and increase lifespan.

Mitochondria,the body’s energy producers,are the power stations inside human cells. Some theories of human ageing suggest the mitochondria plays a part in the process.

A team at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden,has now identified a group of mitochondrial proteins,called MTC proteins,the absence of which allows other protein groups to stabilise the genome,the ‘Molecular Cell’ journal reported.

In their research,the scientists found that the MTC proteins,which are normally needed for mitochondrial protein synthesis,also have other functions that influence genome stability and the cell’s capacity to remove damaged and harmful proteins.

“When a certain MTC protein is lacking in the cell,eg,because of a mutation in the corresponding gene,the other MTC proteins appear to adopt a new function. They then gain increased significance for the stabilisation of the genome and for combating protein damage leading to increased lifespan,” lead scientist Thomas Nyström said.

According to the scientists,these studies also show that this MTC-dependent regulation of the rate of ageing uses the same signalling pathways that are activated in calorie restriction — something that extends the lifespan of many different organisms,including yeasts,mice and primates.

“Some of the MTC proteins identified in this study can also be found in the human cell,raising the obvious question of whether they play a similar role in the regulation of our own ageing processes. “It is possible that modulating the activity of the MTC proteins could enable us to improve the capacity of the cell to delay the onset of age-related diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s,” Nyström said.

At the moment this is only speculation,and the precise mechanism underlying the role of the MTC proteins in the ageing process is a fascinating question that remains to be answered,say the scientists.

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