A study published in Nature has identified two proteins, BAZ-2 and SET-6, that increase with age and accelerate behavioural deterioration in the C. elegans worm.
The two proteins bind together to decrease the expression of over 2000 genes. They operate by modifying histones – the proteins around which DNA is wrapped – to control which genes can be accessed.
Among the downregulated genes are those that maintain the activity of the mitochondria – the ‘energy factories’ of the cell. The resulting metabolic slowdown leads to the behavioural deterioration of the worm.
Human equivalents of these proteins exist, and have been found to increase with age and with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It is of course possible that this link is not causative. BAZ-2 and SET-6 could increase with age as part of an adaptive mechanism, rather than being contributors to the ageing process. However, targeting the BAZ-2 equivalent in mice was also found to slow cognitive decline. This suggests these proteins do in fact contribute to the ageing process, and could be therapeutic targets.
Two conserved epigenetic regulators prevent healthy ageing: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2037-y
Two epigenetic regulators interfere with healthy aging: https://padiracinnovation.org/News/2020/02/two-epigenetic-regulators-interfere-with-healthy-aging