Discovery of a New Protein Promises Treatment for Age-Related Disease

Recent research by scientists At the Ecole Polytechnique Federales de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, has led to the discovery of a previously unknown genetic mechanism which increasingly malfunctions with age. The researchers hope that this discovery could lead to new treatments to combat the effects of aging and age-related diseases.

What was discovered was a particular protein that alters the behavior of mitochondria, the so-called powerhouse of the cell. In particular, the team found that the brains and muscle tissue of older mice contained far higher levels of the protein known as pumilio binding family member 2 (PUM2) than younger mice.

The team’ s research was published the journal Molecular Cell. In their paper, the scientists demonstrate and explain why aging causes higher levels of PUM2. More importantly, they show that higher levels of PUM2 cause the reduction of another protein known as mitochondrial patient factor (MFF).

MFF is a protein that helps break large mitochondria into smaller units so that the body can clear them away. Consequently, the effect of diminished levels of MFF is that cells and tissues are unable to remove large, unhealthy mitochondria.

In a second stage of the team’s research, the scientists attempted to reverse the effects of the build-up of PUM2 in the brains and muscle tissue of older mice. Using advanced gene editing technology, the researchers were able to reduce levels of PUM2 in older mice by deactivating its corresponding encoding gene. This translated into higher levels of MFF protein in the older mice, improving their mitochondrial function, and leading to a longer lifespan.

The researchers conducted a similar study in the roundworm Caenohabdtis elagans, which is commonly used to study molecular pathways. In this roundworm, it was discovered that aging causes higher levels of the binding protein PUF-8. Again using advanced gene editing technology to diminish levels of PUF-8 via a blocking mechanism, the researchers demonstrated that mitochondrial function was enhanced and that life expectancy was extended.

A number of binding proteins have been linked to neuromuscular degenerative diseases. This new research adds hope that fundamentally new treatments to slow the process of aging, and to treat a variety of age-related conditions and diseases, may soon be available.

We may have to wait for this technology to be used on humans, at Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, we are already able to meet the unique needs and interests of seniors and long-term care patients by emphasizing restorative care, maximizing each patient’s potential to regain and maintain function and mobility.

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