Researchers have identified a key factor in the aging process they say could one day lead to longer lives.
In a new study on mice and roundworms, researchers found that adding a chemical known as coenzyme NAD+ postponed physical aging and extend the subjects’ lives. It’s thought that these effects will be seen in humans as well, and could even help to prevent illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The study from the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Healthy Aging and the American National Institute of Health examined the effects on mice and roundworms bred with the illness Ataxia telangiectasia (A-T).
This is a neurodegenerative illness which hinders DNA repairs and leads to symptoms that are typically associated with early aging.
Adding NAD+, however, was found to delay the aging process of the cells and halt mitochondrial damage. And, it extended the subjects’ lives for both the mice and worms.
According to the researchers, the study has major implications for human aging, and links two leading theories – DNA damage accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction.
‘Our new study shows an age-dependent decrease in the level of NAD+, and this decrease is far greater for organisms with early aging and a lack of DNA repairs,’ says Professor Vilhelm Bohr, from the Center for Healthy Aging and the National Institute of Health.
‘We were surprised to see that adding NAD+ postponed both the aging processes of the cells and extended life in worms and in a mouse model.’
The effects have not yet been investigated in humans, but researchers say similar results are expected to be seen.
This is based on the universal nature of the cell repair mechanisms, which are found in all living organisms. The findings uncover a major player in the aging process, which in many ways remains a mystery.
‘We know from previous studies that a drop in the level of NAD+ results in metabolism errors, neurodegeneration and aging, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear to us,’ Bohr said.
‘Our new study stresses that the substance NAD+ plays a main role both in maintaining the health of the cells’ power stations and in their capacity for repairing the genes.’
According to the researchers, this new understanding could be a step toward the goal of life extension and the postponing of physical aging, with potential to one day prevent neurodegenerative diseases in humans.