NEW YORK, BRONX (ORDO News) — In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists at the Buck Institute in California have unearthed a novel ‘drug-like’ molecule with potential anti-aging properties, demonstrating efficacy in maintaining the health of cells’ crucial ‘powerhouses.’ The research, focused on a bioactive compound found in plants, sheds light on a breakthrough approach to slow down the aging process by revitalizing a cell’s garbage and recycling center—a function that diminishes as we age.
The identified compound, dubbed Mitophagy-Inducing Compound (MIC), possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The team conducted experiments on tiny roundworms, observing an impressive extension of their lifespan by an average of 20 days, with some individuals surpassing the 30-day mark. Encouragingly, the compound, also present in cinnamon, demonstrated its effectiveness in worms by acting on a receptor shared with humans, suggesting potential applications in humans.
Gordon Lithgow, a senior co-author of the study, emphasized the significance of MIC, stating, ‘MIC is a great candidate to bring forward given its therapeutic effect across multiple models and the fact that it is a naturally occurring molecule.’ Recognizing the shortage of molecules in the pipeline for developing potential therapeutics in the field of geroscience, Lithgow underscores MIC as a promising contender.
Lead author Manish Chamoli, PhD, highlighted the study’s exploration of links between mitophagy—the cell’s garbage and recycling center—and its potential broader applications beyond treating neurodegeneration or muscle wasting. Published in Nature Aging, the research outlines the lifespan-extending impact of MIC on worms, driven by enhanced mitochondrial function through coumarin, a component of the compound.
Mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses responsible for energy production, play a pivotal role in cellular function. As they age or malfunction, life-threatening diseases can ensue. The natural process of mitophagy involves clearing out dysfunctional mitochondria, crucial for maintaining cellular health. However, this process decelerates with age, contributing to the accumulation of cellular waste and various age-related diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, obesity, and muscle mass loss.
In the study, researchers sought ways to stimulate mitophagy in roundworms, screening a diverse array of compounds to identify potential candidates. MIC, belonging to the coumarin class of molecules, emerged as a standout performer, with natural occurrences in cinnamon and tonka beans. The team discovered that MIC, when administered to worms, significantly increased lifespans compared to untreated counterparts, showcasing its promising therapeutic potential.
Moreover, MIC operates upstream of a key protein, TFEB, responsible for facilitating cells’ junk-clearing processes. By blocking the action of a receptor protein called DAF, it triggers enhanced mitophagy. The human counterpart of DAF, called FXR, regulates TFEB levels in the liver and is present in brain cells, offering insights into MIC’s impact on TFEB in humans.
The study reveals the intricate connection between the brain and gut in terms of health and disease. Bile salts produced in the gut influence FXR levels, impacting mitophagy. Disruptions in the microbiome due to aging can affect mitophagy, with subsequent implications for brain health, given the high mitochondrial density in neurons.
While MIC is not yet available as a supplement, and further experiments explore its role in Alzheimer’s disease, the study provides a pivotal piece of the aging puzzle. In the interim, individuals are advised to focus on fundamental elements supporting healthy aging, including sleep, diet, and exercise. Additionally, research suggests that intermittent fasting, which boosts mitophagy, and certain existing drugs may hold promise in mitigating the impact of aging, underscoring the ongoing quest to unlock the secrets of longevity.
News agencies contributed to this report, edited and published by ORDO News editors.
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