Recent research at Eötvös Loránd University has led to important discoveries in the field of genetics, exploring the potential of immortal jellyfish DNA to influence human longevity. These studies could have a significant impact on our understanding of aging and cell biology.
The research, conducted by doctors Ádám Sturm e Tibor Vellai, focused on the transposable elements (TEs) in our DNA. In an article from a short time ago I called them "jumping geniuses": I am an advertiser before a popularizer, and that seemed like a peculiarity to me. In fact, these elements are considered moving parts in our genetic instruction manual.
When they move excessively, however, they can affect the function of DNA. Their instability could be a key factor in accelerating the aging process.
On the way to the jellyfish
The researchers looked at a particular mechanism, known as a pathway Piwi-piRNA, which regulates the activity of these TEs. They observed this process in cells that do not age, such as cancer stem cells and stem cells Turritopsis dohrnii, also known as “immortal jellyfish”.
The innovation of this study lies in the application of techniques to reduce the activity of TEs. When they implemented this strategy on certain TEs in such nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans, researchers noticed a significant slowing of the signs of aging.
Experimental tests and future impacts
In their previous studies from 2015 and 2017, Sturm and Vellai had hypothesized a strong connection between the Piwi-piRNA system and the concept of biological immortality. Now, with their latest work published in Nature Communications (I link it here), have provided experimental evidence to support this theory. Managing the activity of TEs has been shown to effectively prolong life, highlighting the crucial role of these mobile parts of DNA in the aging process.
Detailed analysis of the worms' DNA revealed specific changes in TEs with advancing age, particularly in changes in N6-adenine DNA methylation. These changes influence the activity of TEs and could provide a method for determining age from DNA, thus creating an accurate biological clock.
Reflections and potential applications
These findings open the door to myriad potential applications in the world of medicine and biology. Through observation of nature (in this case jellyfish) we have gained a deeper understanding of these moving parts of DNA and the systems that manage them. We may be on the road to developing ways to extend life and improve health during later years.
The approach taken by Sturm and Vellai is an example of how interdisciplinary research can provide significant insights into the fields of genetics and biology. Their work not only contributes to our understanding of aging, but also opens new perspectives for innovative treatments and therapies.