Posted on 13 November 2020
Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.
Why is this research important: Ageing is thought to be the result of the accumulation of random damage within cells, such as genetic mutations and the damage and dysfunction of important cellular components. It is possible that these changes occur primarily in just a few cells: ‘bad apples’ that compromise the tissues of which they form part. This might allow us to treat ageing simply by removing defective cells. On the other hand, it’s also possible that significant changes occur in many cells, causing them to lose the ability to tightly regulate their genes.
What did the researchers do: In a study published in Nature Metabolism, researchers borrowed a novel approach from physics, and used it to develop a computational method that quantifies the level of coordination between different genes. They used this method to compare gene activity in cells from old and young subjects.
Key takeaway(s) from this research: Old cells lost significant genetic coordination compared to young cells, and there was an increased reduction in genetic coordination within cells comprising tissues with an increased level of damage. Importantly, this finding was consistent across different organisms and among different cell types, supporting the theory that a widespread loss of gene regulation could be a leading cause of the ageing process.
Age-related loss of gene-to-gene transcriptional coordination among single cells: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-020-00304-4