- Study of worms found when adult cells abruptly begin their downhill slide
- Researchers say change occurs when they reach reproductive maturity
- Finding is significant because humans have the same genetic ‘switch’
- Means scientists could eventually delay ageing and degenerative diseases
Scientists have discovered how to switch off the ageing process in worms – which could eventually lead to the mechanism being delayed in humans.
The study of worms showed adult cells abruptly begin their downhill slide when they reach reproductive maturity.
A genetic switch then allows ageing to begin by ‘turning off’ certain processes which protect cells within the body.
The finding is significant because humans have the same genetic switch – and means eventually it may be possible to delay ageing and certain degenerative diseases.
Genetic switches then start the ageing process by turning off cell stress responses that protect cells by keeping important proteins folded and functional.
The results, published in the journal Molecular Cell, claim to pinpoint the start of ageing, disproving the theory that ageing is a slow series of random events.
Researchers studied the transparent roundworm C. elegans, and found this ‘switch’ is thrown by germline stem cells in early adulthood after it starts to reproduce ensuring its line will live on.
C. elegans have a biochemical environment similar to that of humans and are a popular research tool for the study of the biology of ageing and are used to model human diseases.
Knowing more about how the quality control system works in cells could help researchers one day figure out how to delay degenerative diseases related to ageing, such as neuro-degenerative diseases.