The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
Scientists believe they have stumbled closer to a biological ‘fountain of youth’.
They have identified 30 genes linked to physical aging, one of which they say could possibly be modified to extend the lifespan of humans.
Researchers analysed 40,000 genes in their search for clues to longevity.
Scientists from ETH Zurich in Switzerland and the Jena University Hospital in Germany analyzed 40,000 genes from three different organisms: the nematode caenorhabditis elegans, zebra fish and mice.
The scientists were searching for genes that regulated in an identical manner in all three organisms in each stage of again: young, mature and old.
Scientists took samples and measurements of the RNA molecules found in the cells of each animal, which are used, alongside DNA, to direct protein synthesis.
They then created statistical models to establish an intersection of genes that were regulated in the same manner in the worms, fish and mice.
This showed that the three organisms have only 30 genes in common that significantly influence the aging process.
The team was able to pinpoint the aging process in the nematodes by selectively blocking RNA of the corresponding genes.
Blocking them extended the lifespan by at least five percent.
One of these genes proved to be particularly influential: the bcat-1 gene.
[ The first step in the degradation of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) is transamination catalyzed by the branched-chain aminotransferase (BCAT), which is located in extrahepatic tissues.
‘When we blocked the effect of this gene, it significantly extended the mean lifespan of the nematode by up to 25 percent,’ said Michael Ristow, coordinating author of the recently published study and Professor of Energy Metabolism at ETH Zurich.
The researchers were also able to explain how this gene works: the bcat-1 gene carries the code for the enzyme of the same name.
Naturally occurring in food protein building blocks, these include the amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine.
When the scientists inhibited the gene activity of bcat-1, the branched-chain amino acids accumulated in the tissue, triggering a molecular signalling cascade that increased longevity in the nematodes.
Moreover, the time span during which the worms remained healthy was extended.
As a measure of vitality, the researchers measured the accumulation of ageing pigments, the speed at which the creatures moved, and how often the nematodes successfully reproduced.
All of these parameters improved when the scientists inhibited the activity of the bcat-1 gene.
The scientists also achieved a life-extending effect when they mixed the three branched-chain amino acids into the nematodes’ food.
However, the effect was generally less pronounced because the bcat-1 gene was still active, which meant that the amino acids continued to be degraded and their life-extending effects could not develop as effectively.
Ristow believes this mechanism also occurs in humans.
‘We looked only for the genes that are conserved in evolution and therefore exist in all organisms, including humans,’ he said.
Ristow also stated that the multiple branched-chain amino acids are currently being used to treat liver damage and can be found in sport nutrition products.
This study aims to deliver important indicators on how the aging process can be influenced and how age-related diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure could be prevented.
The three ‘branched-chain amino acids’ (BCAAs), L-isoleucine along with L-valine and L-leucine, are required for the protein synthesis necessary for muscle growth, healing of injured tissues and healthy function of the nervous system. BCAAs are found in dairy, legumes, and meat.
Some doctors use BCAA as medication for patients with brain conditions caused by liver disease, tardive dyskinesia, McArdie’s disease, and spinocerebellar degeneration. The supplement is also given to enhance appetite in elderly patients with cancer and kidney failure. Health care providers also provide BCAA to those who are confined in bed, as the supplement can slow malfunctioning of muscles. Aside from the uses of BCAA in treating several medical conditions, people use the supplement to reduce fatigue, improve muscle performance, and enhance concentration.
The amino acids promote growth and development of protein in the muscle which reduces muscle breakdown and deterioration. BCAA prevents the transmission of faulty messages in the brain, which makes them useful in treating anorexia, mania, and advanced stages of liver disease.
Use of BCAA for over six months can be harmful to health, as experienced by many people who took the supplement for an extended period. Common side effects include loss of coordination and fatigue. Avoid taking BCAAs before engaging in activities that require excellent motor coordination.
Medical experts do not prescribe BCAA to people who have specific health conditions because of the possibility of severe side effects.
The following are among those who are susceptible to experience the jeopardizing effect of BCAA to the health.
1. PATIENTS WITH AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS (ALS)
The use of BCAA in patients with ALS has been linked with high death rates and lung failure. The medication resulted in poor recovery and severity of the medical condition among these patients.
2. People with ketoaciduria
Patients with ketoaciduria are not advised to take BCAAs because of serious effects observed when used by people with their condition such as muscle breakdown, mental retardation, and seizures.
Those who suffer from chronic alcoholism should avoid using BCAA for dietary purposes. The use of this supplement in alcoholics has been linked with liver disease and brain damage.
4. Infants with low blood sugar levels
Infants who were supplemented with BCAA, particularly leucine, caused a reduction in the blood sugar levels of infants. These patients experienced idiopathic hypoglycemia, and researchers suggest that leucine stimulated the release of insulin from the pancreas. An overproduction of insulin leads lo low levels of blood sugar.
5. Patients who will undergo surgery
Those who will undergo surgery should have the right levels of blood sugar, so they will have excellent recovery after the medical procedure. Since BCAA affects the normal blood sugar levels, patients are advised to discontinue the use of BCAA at least two weeks prior surgery.
Aside from several medical conditions, those who take the following medication should avoid using BCAA due to side effects and ineffectiveness of the drug.
Ledovopa, a medication for Parkinson’s disease, will have a decrease in effectiveness when taken with BCAA.
2. Anti-diabetes drugs
The use of branched-chain amino acids causes a reduction in blood sugar levels. Since anti-diabetes drugs aim to decrease blood sugar, patients might suffer from hypoglycemia. The different medications for diabetes that should not be used with BCAA include glimepiride, rosiglitazone, glyburide, glipizide, and several others.
Before patients decide to take BCAA, they need to consult their health care provider for recommendation and medical insurance. They can avoid experiencing BCAA side effects when they have proper guidance regarding the use of the supplement.
Rather than taking BCCA supplements, it may be safest to adjust your intake of organic dairy, legumes, and meats. Monitor the results in your personal health journal and keep adjusting until you feel your energy and health are maximized.