Have We Found an "Achilles' Heel of Life" That Causes Aging?

By Eliza Strickland | December 1, 2008 9:16 am

wrinkled handsResearchers may have uncovered one of the universal causes of aging: A crucial type of protein that serves a double duty in organisms ranging from yeast to mice, and that becomes overwhelmed as the organism ages. The protein is charged both with repairing DNA damage and with regulating gene expression (so that, for example, a gene necessary for liver function doesn’t suddenly get turned on in the brain), and a new study has shown that when the protein is busy repairing DNA, it can’t perform its other task. Says lead author David Sinclair: “One idea of why we age is that DNA becomes damaged or mutated…. But perhaps the main culprit is the effect of genes switching on and off, and that should be reversible” [Wired News].

About a decade ago, researchers identified a protein called Sir2 that zooms to the spot of broken DNA in yeast cells and repairs the breaks. But to do that, Sir2 has to abandon its job of inactivating a sterility gene elsewhere in the yeast genome. The result is yeast cells that have intact DNA but are sterile, a symptom of aging in the fungi…. “This may be a very fundamental Achilles’ heel of life,” says Sinclair [ScienceNOW Daily News]. Now, Sinclair’s team has identified the mammalian equivalent of that protein, called SIRT1, and have determined that it plays a similar role in aging mice: When it focuses on repairing DNA damage, it neglects its gene regulation duties.

In the study, published in Cell [subscription required], researchers treated mouse stem cells with hydrogen peroxide to mimic the DNA damage that occurs as animals age, and then watched as SIRT1 migrated away from regulatory regions of the genome and toward the many areas where DNA strands had broken. As a result, genes that were normally shut off suddenly became active. Gene expression patterns, once exquisitely fine-tuned, went haywire [Technology Review].

The study also examined whether the breakdown could be prevented or reversed. Sinclair’s team dosed the mice with resveratrol, the chemical found in red wine that is known to improve the function of SIRT1, and also engineered mice to naturally produce more SIRT1. They found that both tactics increased the lifespan of cancer-prone mice by 24 to 46 percent. Says Sinclair: “What this paper actually implies is that aspects of aging may be reversible…. It sounds crazy, but in principle it should be possible to restore the youthful set of genes, the patterns that are on and off” [Boston Globe blog].

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Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Saurabh Gupta

    Since the Harvard resveratrol study on aging by Dr. Sinclair was published in the journal Nature a flood of dubious companies have sprung up selling resveratrol. Many have no scientist, no labs, no quality control and no experience. Dr. Oz recommends Biotivia Bioforte and Transmax. Consumer Lab, an independent testing authority, evaluated the major brands and found many lacking in content and quality. The highest potency products that passed their evaluation were Biotivia, Transmax and Bioforte. A product by Life Extension Co. failed badly with only 26% of the claimed resveratrol. Another brand, Revatrol, had virtually no trans-resveratrol in its supplement. Revgenitics refused to provide samples for testing. The ConsumerLab test results are available on their web site.

  • http://www.resveratrol.com David

    Resveratrol is going to revolutionise healthcare around the world very shortly. You can buy purified resveratrol now – without the alcohol found in red wine and without waiting 5 years for the phamaceutical industry to put out a resveratrol drug. Check out resveratrol.com for some good information.

  • Tej

    I think resveratrol application should only be heavily used by individuals who are not expected to live till the average life expectancy, due to some medical reason. If people start taking this for the sole reason of staying young, can eventually over population become a problem?

    What do you guys think are some of the pros and cons if this resveratrol chemical became readily available to the general public?

  • Jamie Diamond

    Resveratrol can help you to lead a long and healthy life so says many
    doctors. Red wine alone does not supply enough resveratrol to achieve the
    full range of benefits because one glass of red wine has only about
    1mg of resveratrol and you need about 250mg/day. You need to take
    high potency resveratrol supplements to achieve the results documented
    in scientific studies.Resveratrol Supplements can also help you control
    your weight naturally by increasing energy, reducing cravings, and limiting
    your appetite.According to Wikipedia, Consumer Lab, an independent dietary
    supplement and over the counter products evaluation organization,
    published a report on 13 November 2007 on the popular resveratrol
    supplements. The organization reported that there exists a wide range
    in quality, dose, and price among the 13 resveratrol products
    evaluated. The actual amount of resveratrol contained in the
    different brands range from 2.2mg for Revatrol, which claimed to have
    400mg of “Red Wine Grape Complex”, to 500mg for Biotivia.com Transmax,
    which is consistent with the amount claimed on the product’s label.
    Prices per 100mg of resveratrol ranged from less than $.30 for
    products made by Biotivia.com, jarrow, and country life, to a high of
    $45.27 for the Revatrol brand.

  • http://resveratrol.webiage.com/resveratrol/ David Hynes

    The current studies performed by Dr. Sinclair and many other researchers have shown great promise for resveratrol treating the diseases of aging. There are numerous articles that I have linked to at my website – http://resveratrol.webiage.com – that document the findings for the potential health benefits in treating heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and other diseases.
    Concerning supplements containing a high quality and potency of resveratrol that is necessary to achieve the dosage levels utilized in the lab tests, there is a new product called Vivix. Dr. Sinclair partnered with Shaklee Corporation, the number one natural nutrition company in the U.S. (http://www.shaklee.com/index.shtml), to produce a liquid resveratrol supplement that is 10 times stronger than resveratrol alone due to its patented formulation of polyphenols. Dr. Sinclair also serves on Shaklee’s Scientific Advisory Board (http://www.shaklee.com/company_sab_dsinclair.shtml.)
    Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz are both users and promoters of Shaklee products and Oprah has featured Roger Barnett, Chairman and CEO of Shaklee (http://www.shaklee.com/company_lead_ceo.shtml), on her show.
    So for a highly researched resveratrol supplement of exceptional quality, please visit – http://www.shaklee.net/davidhynes/vivix – to discover more about Vivix.

  • http://www.yesil-kart.com greencard

    Is there any information about this subject in other languages?

  • http://www.biotivia.com Kira Jones

    Interesting post David Hynes – have you read the latest? Dr Sinclair has resigned from Shaklee! Might be interesting if you want to read more then go here: http://www.biotivia.com/blog/2008/12/harvard-anti-aging-researcher-quits-shaklee-advisory-board/

    Very interesting reading, but i think that there are a number of ‘good’ supplement manufacturers including Biotivia Resveratrol Supplements that can overshadow this slightly negative news, but i wish you all the best.

  • John V. Hresc

    4-21-2010 There are so many things contributing to a slow painful death. I see it as a percentage kind of existence game. Can we improve upon our inherited genes, and make corrections to them, We must obtain more than 50% positive life sustaining contents to overtake the plus 50% negative death forces that will eventual kill us all. In other words we stay ahead of time through constant (cell DNA) bodily repairs and its defeating elements by obtaining a percentage advantage. We fix it faster than it can break down. Knowing how to do this is critical. Lets look at four elements needed for human physical life to exist in this universe and Earth. Air/water/ground material footage with nutritional energy sustenance and fire heat combustion. There are many type of factors to consider in our survival process and existence. Our millions of body cells must be scrutinize to see exactly what optimum nutrition they need and to replace themselves in a perfect way. Every positive factor helps. We can expect these to be, positive mental attitude, good spiritual health such as true belief and faith in a universe creator God (sins of error cleansed in ourselves); proper positive life giving beneficial nutritional foods plus herbs vitamins, minerals giving us more time to live; avoiding poisons in air and soil environment; avoiding toxins false foods (no life giving forces); dangers vs. benefits of sunlight; chemistry replacement through analysis of what chemicals-hormones etc left our young bodies causing us to lose our youthful vigor and libido. We need to find all the faults, weakness and errors in our bodies and find a logical medical way to correct them to a maximum potential advantage. Good health in our colon is one great key to a lifetime of next to perfect good health, because beneficial bacteria helps us in our biological intestinal battle to defeat dangerous bad toxic bacteria thus strengthen our immune systems. We are all in a biological viral type of war of existence. Avoiding contamination filth is also critical in staving off sicknesses from our surrounding environment. Avoiding bad luck as much as possible and achieve greater good luck is the true secret in staying ahead of the “percentage game of life existence”. We must avoid natural physical accidents that could damage us or kill us. We live in a dangerous world of massive weapons. However I truly believe there is a possibility of achieving eternal physical life here on our great planet called Earth! We must always be vigilant in our exploration in finding all the problem solving answers through our research of trial and error. We must help each other, and not be selfish to hurt one another. Never shall we give up our will to live and survive as long as possible, even though we live in an imperfect world!

    Cordially yours,

    John V. Hresc
    Thinktank researcher.

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