Longevity

Tubular Lysosomes: a Key to Fasting-Induced Longevity?

Posted on 13 February 2020

Lysosomes are the garbage disposal units of the cell: membrane-bound packages of digestive enzymes that destroy unwanted waste. They are typically depicted as spherical vesicles, however recent research by Adam Bohnert and Alyssa Johnson, assistant professors at the LSU Department of Biological Sciences, has found that this is not always the case.

The typical spherical depiction of a lysosome

In some tissues, lysosomes can form complex, tubular, lattice-like structures that appear to confer resistance to stressors and ageing. In worms, for example, these structures can be induced in certain tissues by temporary starvation, and this not only enhances the worm’s health and longevity, but interestingly, also confers these benefits to its progeny.

Tubular lysosomes in a live worm
(LSU), L. (2020). LSU Biologists Reveal Cellular Architecture of Potential Fountain of Youth. Retrieved 13 February 2020, from https://www.lsu.edu/research/recent_grant_successes/2020/0205-johnsonbohnert.php

It is already understood that as we age, lysosomes accumulate debris that they are unable to clear and become dysfunctional, which is thought to contribute to diseases of ageing. Not only does this research help explain the benefits of intermittent fasting on longevity, it could also identify means to slow ageing by inducing tubular lysosome formation. Bohnert and Johnson have identified several genes that control tubular lysosomes, and are interested in the effects of their expression in other organisms and tissues.

One of the genes, if you over-express it, can make networks in places where there normally are no networks, and this seems to correlate with animal health. Our question is, can we introduce it in animals and tissues that don’t normally have them, to promote their health? We’re trying to understand the differences between tissues and if we can learn from one tissue to provide beneficial output for a different tissue, or the whole organism in general.

Alyssa Johnson, assistant professor in the LSU Department of Biological Sciences 
(LSU), L. (2020). LSU Biologists Reveal Cellular Architecture of Potential Fountain of Youth. Retrieved 13 February 2020, from https://www.lsu.edu/research/recent_grant_successes/2020/0205-johnsonbohnert.php

The researchers recently recieved a $1 million grant to continue their work in this new field.


References

LSU Biologists Reveal Cellular Architecture of Potential Fountain of Youth: https://www.lsu.edu/research/recent_grant_successes/2020/0205-johnsonbohnert.php

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