Science takes a step closer to understanding and reversing the aging process
Published: 01 MAY 2018 09:23AM
Words by AC Speed | Senior Editor
we grow older there are many different factors that affect our ability to act and behave the same way we did in our teen years, twenties and thirties. These ailments can present themselves in many different forms, from the simple way we look to how we process information and perform cognitive tasks.
Age-related cognitive degeneration is one of the biggest fears for most people as this can lead to a variety of crippling conditions and diseases that not only inhibit your ability to remember who your close friends and family are, but you can also lose track of who you are as a person.
Another dominant factor in the aging process that we all face no matter how active we try to be throughout our life, is physical degeneration. At some point, we will all face the same disabilities. We lose our muscle strength and mass, our ability to be mobile and self-sufficient.
One key element in understanding how and why this happens is a condition called, 'Sarcopenia'.
Sarcopenia is the decline of skeletal muscle tissue with age and is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. This will affect every single one of you at some point in your life and generally starts to set in around your early 30's.
Its cause is widely regarded as multifactorial, with neurological decline, hormonal changes, inflammatory pathway activation, declines in activity, chronic illness, fatty infiltration, and poor nutrition, all shown to be contributing factors.
If we can understand why this happens we can potentially stop or even reverse this aspect of the aging process.
A team at CAS Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science, Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology lead by Professor Ping Hu, recently published a paper titled, 'Dkk3 dependent transcriptional regulation controls age-related skeletal muscle atrophy'.
"Age-related muscle atrophy (sarcopenia) is the leading cause of disability in the aged population, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood" Lead Author Professor P. Hu
The team identified a novel role of 'Dkk3', a gene in the human body responsible for encoding proteins in the body that are important for embryonic development.
They took muscle biopsies from 20 young adults - less than 35 years old - and 20 older adults - more than 70 years old and blood samples from both groups and performed gene sequencing on all samples to identify the level of muscle atrophy (degeneration).
They discovered that by regulating the Dkk3 gene they could actually rescue muscle functions in older muscle samples, essentially bringing them back to life and restoring function that had previously been lost to age-related degeneration.
They also found that the actual weight of the muscle had also improved by reducing the expression of the Dkk3 gene.
"Together, these results reveal that reduction of Dkk3 level in old muscle can improve both muscle fiber size and functions, suggesting Dkk3 to be a potential target to treat sarcopenia."
"Knocking down Dkk3 in sarcopenia muscles could rescue not only the muscle fiber size but also the muscle contraction abilities. These results suggest that Dkk3 is a potential target to diagnose and treat sarcopenia."
What does this mean?
Quite simply, it could be possible to reverse this aspect of the aging process within humans and not only treat physical degeneration but restore the patient to a much younger version of themselves.
The Dkk3 gene has also been linked to many diseases which could potentially open up a new area of research for disease prevention and treatment.
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