Scientists make a groundbreaking discovery in the quest for a longer life

Researchers have identified that removing harmful by-products of fat that naturally accumulate over time could do the trick

By Faisal Khan | 31 March 2023


Over the past several decades, there has been significant progress in the field of anti-aging research, with scientists identifying several potential strategies for extending lifespan and maintaining health in old age. That’s something entirely different from the healthy lifestyle that is usually preached. We live in an era where health researchers are much more open to considering aging as a disease rather than a natural progression of life.

Scientists have gone a step further by studying cellular biology to extend human lifespans. And today’s research is one such step in that direction. A potential strategy to delay aging has been identified by scientists at the University of Virginia, involving the detoxification of harmful by-products of fat, glycerol, and glyceraldehyde, which accumulate naturally over time in the body.

This novel study aims to uncover mechanisms that drive healthy aging and longevity, with the new findings indicating a potential way to reduce the health-draining effects of glycerol and glyceraldehyde. One of the exciting aspects of this discovery is that the two enzymes responsible for activating the longevity mechanism have already been extensively studied for their detoxification properties related to ethanol, the alcohol commonly found in beer & bourbon.

To uncover the secrets of aging, the research team turned to “C. elegans,” a type of microscopic worm that shares over 70% of human genes and is a valuable tool in biomedical research. Previous research in worms, mice, and human cells suggested that activating autophagy, a process that renews old and damaged parts of cells, was key to extending lifespan.

“The discovery was unexpected. We went after a very well-supported hypothesis that the secret to longevity was the activation of a cell-rejuvenating process named autophagy and ended up finding an unrecognized mechanism of health and lifespan extension.”

~ Eyleen Jorgelina O’Rourke, Lead Researcher

However, researchers were surprised to discover that this was not necessary. They were able to improve the health and lifespan of the worms by 50% without any increase in autophagy, challenging previous assumptions about the mechanisms of aging. Utilizing a mechanism they named AMAR (Sanskrit word for immortality) which stands for “Alcohol and aldehyde-dehydrogenase Mediated Anti-aging Response”, the team of researchers was able to achieve this mechanism.

By activating the adh-1 gene, researchers were able to stimulate an anti-aging response in their lab models, specifically microscopic worms. This activation increased the production of alcohol dehydrogenase — an enzyme that counteracts the toxicity of glycerol and indirectly, glyceraldehyde. As a result, the worms exhibited longer, healthier lifespans.

To further explore the potential of their findings, the researchers conducted additional tests. They confirmed that the enzyme had similar beneficial effects on lifespan in another lab model, yeast. Additionally, they analyzed gene activity in mammals, including humans, who had undergone fasting or calorie restriction, both of which are known to extend health span and lifespan.

The researchers discovered increased levels of anti-aging enzymes in all tested mammals, further supporting the promise of the study. The team of scientists hypothesizes that the levels of glycerol and glyceraldehyde in humans naturally increase as we age, as they are toxic byproducts of fat accumulation in the body.

Therefore, the AMAR mechanism could potentially provide a solution to combat this toxicity and extend the number of years we live in good health. Additionally, the researchers speculate that AMAR may also aid in weight loss efforts. Next, they intend to develop therapeutics that target AMAR.

Complete research was published in the Journal of Cell Biology.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Faisal Khan is a prolific Canada-based tech blogger and influencer. He is the founder and editor of the Technicity publication which focuses on technical, scientific and financial knowledge sharing. Follow him on Twitter @fklivestolearn.

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