27 September 2023

Suppression of "jumping genes" slows aging

Geneticists have linked transposon activity to cellular aging and age-related changes.

Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary have found that controlling transposons or "jumping genes" in roundworms slows aging and age-related changes. The method could potentially be used in biology and medicine, the researchers said.

Transposons are DNA sequences that move from one location in the genome to another. These movements can cause mutations at the new location, causing genomic instability that contributes to aging and age-related diseases.

The researchers used a specific Piwi-piRNA mechanism to suppress RNAi in roundworms in a series of experiments. It protects genomes from unfavorable mutagenic activity. The scientists suppressed active families of jumping genes and found that suppression of the two most mobile of these, Tc1 and Tc3, slowed the aging process. 

When the genes of each of these families were suppressed at 20 °C, somatic cell lifespan was prolonged by about 10%. The combined effect of suppressing the activity of both Tc1 and Tc3 is equivalent to the use of some types of drugs that slow aging.

The researchers also found epigenetic changes in the DNA of these worms as they aged, particularly in jumping genes. Epigenetic changes, unlike genetic changes, are reversible and do not change the DNA sequence, but they can change how the body reads that sequence. The researchers observed that DNA methylation of N6-adenine increases the number of transposon hops as the worm ages. 

The researchers believe that a better understanding of the mechanisms that control aging will lead to the development of ways to extend life and improve health in later years.
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