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Could the Curse of Ageing Have a Cure?

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the United States have reached an intriguing breakthrough into what causes us to age.

The hypothalamus is a region located within the centre of the brain, which controls our basic functions: the need to eat, drink and sleep, as well as maintaining our body temperature. The hypothalamus sends age-related signals around the body, which in turn, makes it either grow or degenerate according to how old we are.

Senior Author Professor Dongsheng Cai and his team focused on a particular protein complex within the hypothalamus in order to study hypothalamic inflammation.

“Inflammation involves hundreds of molecules, and this one (protein complex) sits right at the centre of the regulatory map,” he explained, “it is clear from our study that many aspects of ageing are controlled by the hypothalamus.”

By testing the theory on mice, Cai and his researchers blocked this protein in order to tamper with the signal. They injected mice with a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) for an extended period of time. What they discovered, much to their surprise, was that the mice lived for 20 percent longer than the expected lifespan.

Although this was tested on mice, Cai believes that increasing the lifespan could help to reduce risks of diabetes or even cancer.

“As people age you can detect inflammatory changes in various tissues… Inflammation is also involved in various age-related diseases, such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disease and many types of cancer.

“What’s exciting is that it’s possible – at least in mice – to alter signaling within the hypothalamus to slow down the ageing process and increase longevity. Scientists have long wondered whether ageing occurs independently in the body’s various tissues or if it could be actively regulated by an organ in the body.”

Perhaps the concept of eternal youth may be something of a page from science-fiction, but the idea that human beings can live for longer is an intriguing and exciting step in the field of science.

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2013 by .
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