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article imageEssential Science: Secret to living longer is more ‘rest’

By Tim Sandle     Nov 11, 2019 in Science
If you want to live for longer, especially as you get older, then the answer, based on a new study, is to rest more and preferably to sleep more. This finding is drawn from a comparative review of people experiencing different lifestyles.
The research stems from Harvard Medical School (Blavatnik Institute). Here scientists have gathered new evidence which demonstrates that the key to living longer is to get a good amount of sleep.
The research focus is with epigenetics. Scientists mapped changes in gene expression in people who died between 60 and 100 years old. The purpose was to understand how changes in gene expression correlated to longevity.
Epigenetics is about the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. This includes the effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits arising from external or environmental factors.
Research finding
The data analysis revealed a pattern. In terms of longevity, people who died over the age of 85 showed suppressed neural excitement (a term for the constant flicker of electrical currents and transmissions in the brain). In contrast, those who passed away at a younger age showed higher levels of neural excitement.
According to lead researcher Professor Bruce Yankner: “An intriguing aspect of our findings is that something as transient as the activity state of neural circuits could have such far-ranging consequences for physiology and life span.”
Neural excitation is a process that acts along a chain of molecular events long-regarded to influence longevity. This is the insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling pathway.
Forkhead transcription factors
The researchers identified a protein overexpressed in older individuals, which they termed REST. This protein plays a role in suppressing neural activity and the protein is more active during sleep. The data showed that the suppression activity affects lifespan. This is because it is only as neural activity is suppressed, that a family of forkhead transcription factors comes alive.
Forkhead transcription factors guide much of the cell growth process, from differentiation to longevity. Forkhead proteins are a family that function to regulate the expression of genes involved in cell growth, proliferation, differentiation, as well as with longevity.
Testing the research
To examine if the activity suppression provided by REST is linked of longevity, the science team used genetically engineered mice plus the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Both creatures were engineered to either be deficient in or to overproduce REST.
Sleep deprivation is frighteningly harmful to one s cardiovascular and neural activity.  Often child...
Sleep deprivation is frighteningly harmful to one's cardiovascular and neural activity. Often children are misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders and adults remain undiagnosed, depending on even more harmful sleep substitutes or sleep aids.
In both cases, those organisms designed to overproduce REST lived for longer. In contrast, the mice and worms designed be deficient in the forkhead protein were shown to die comparatively young. Hence, the findings reveal a conserved mechanism of ageing that is mediated by neural circuit activity and regulated by REST.
Research paper
The research could provide bridge for further research. The study has been reported to the science journal Nature. The research paper is headed “Regulation of lifespan by neural excitation and REST.”
Essential Science
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue.
A young woman shows off her flu shot after receiving vaccine at a local drug store.
A young woman shows off her flu shot after receiving vaccine at a local drug store.
Whoisjohngalt (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Last week we examined a team of virologists who are edging closer to developing a universal flu vaccine, based on an antibody that attaches to a protein. Given that flu viruses require this protein to reproduce in the body, this could provide the basis for a ‘universal’ vaccine.
The week before we weighed in on evidence that suggests too much screen time, for young people, is correlated with an increased consumption of sugary-foods (and obesity) and excessive caffeine intake. This draws a connection between the use of devices and unhealthy habits.
More about Sleep, Rest, Lifespan, Life expectancy
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