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article imageOp-Ed: Discovery of ‘longevity gene’ breaking important new ground

By Paul Wallis     Feb 4, 2013 in Health
Sydney - A gene called SIRT 3 has been found effective in recharging stem cells and reversing, yes reversing, the effects of aging. This is a molecular approach, and it works directly on mitochondria, cell power sources.
SIRT 3 is a member of a class of genes called sirtuins, and its role is to regulate metabolism in cell nuclei and mitochondria.
Science Daily quotes researchers:
"We already know that sirtuins regulate aging, but our study is really the first one demonstrating that sirtuins can reverse aging-associated degeneration, and I think that's very exciting," said study principal investigator Danica Chen, UC Berkeley assistant professor of nutritional science and toxicology. "This opens the door to potential treatments for age-related degenerative diseases."
Research into aging has been consistently showing that aging is in fact a running-down process. The SIRT 3 result is an extremely important corroboration of this general scenario, and also ties in oxidation with aging:
Mouse studies were very revealing:
…It appears that in young cells, the blood stem cells are functioning well and have relatively low levels of oxidative stress, which is the burden on the body that results from the harmful byproducts of metabolism. At this youthful stage, the body's normal anti-oxidant defenses can easily deal with the low stress levels, so differences in SIRT3 are less important.
"When we get older, our system doesn't work as well, and we either generate more oxidative stress or we can't remove it as well, so levels build up," said Chen. "Under this condition, our normal anti-oxidative system can't take care of us, so that's when we need SIRT3 to kick in to boost the anti-oxidant system. However, SIRT3 levels also drop with age, so over time, the system is overwhelmed."
As you can see, the SIRT 3 discovery cuts right to the heart of a fundamental element in the aging process. The ramifications of an effective rewind for body clocks are fantastic. Aging isn’t just nasty and insulting. It’s incredibly expensive. The researchers are now talking in a guarded way of managing the diseases of aging and, rather stunningly…“a rejuvenative therapy where you could increase a protein's expression without increasing the risk of diseases like cancer."
This means safely working with genes at the molecular/cellular level.
It’s also not clear what exactly getting on top of the oxidative process will mean. It could even mean a healthier middle age. That’s not a bad idea, given the prevalence of some very grim diseases in that age bracket.
It may also provide a working measure for identifying oxidative issues- If SIRT 3 levels aren’t what they should be, it’d be reasonable for doctors to suspect oxidative issues in general health. This research is going to go a long way in a lot of different directions. The good news for human beings is that it also looks like it’s hitting a lot of targets that humanity has been looking for for a long time.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about SIRT 3, longevity gene, aging research