Sunday, December 13, 2009

Progress in Aging: Secretome, mRNA and Nutrients

The U.S. National Institute on Aging held a Systems Biology of Human Aging conference in Baltimore, MD on December 8-9, 2009. Several interesting topics were considered including the complexities of modeling the process of aging, the role of RNA in gene regulation, neurodegenerative disease and vascular compromise, and gene expression and signaling networks.

Aging: break-down in signaling networks
Aging is a systems biology problem where signaling networks break down. As part of the signaling break down, senescent cells secrete inflammatory proteins which together can be thought of as the ‘secretome.’ Judy Campisi has found that the secretome, the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), can provide a common biological explanation for the related phenomena of aging, degenerative disease and cancer. Senescent cells produce the SASP, essentially inflammation, which can then trigger degenerative disease (aging) and hyper-prolific disease (cancer). A potential solution is to remove the 10-15% of senescent cells that are not naturally killed by the immune system. Some secretome research has been applied specifically to vascular smooth muscle cells which have the tendency to unhealthily proliferate and migrate with aging, in a process called the pro-inflammatory age associated arterial secretory phenotype (AAASP).

RNA and gene regulation
With mRNA analysis it is possible to obtain the transcriptome, the complement of DNA that has been synthesized into RNA and exists in a cell at any given time snapshot. This is starting to allow findings that the process of transcription and translation is probably more tightly coordinated than previously thought, and that translational control could be a dominant force in transcription. The norm is starting to be that RNA binding protein and non-coding mRNA expression should be identified too in analysis, not just protein expression. Generally, DNA is much more active than initially thought with perhaps 90% of the human genome being actively expressed in some cell of the body. The level of certain mRNAs can be an upstream pathway indicator of aging as mRNAs may increase or decrease with aging which can cause the level of damaging proteins to increase. For example, MKK4 increases with the overexpression of four mRNAs.

Alternate day fasting and nutrients
Alternate day fasting may potentially confer the same benefits as calorie restriction in animals and humans, both in physical and neurological health. Neurodegenerative disease and neurological decline are part of aging pathologies. A countermeasure may be to increase the levels of certain proteins, especially BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is neuroprotective, neurogenerative and important in plasticity and synaptic activity. Some nutrients that may help to increase BDNF levels are sulforphane (broccoli), curcumin (tumeric), catechins (green tea), allicin (garlic), hypericin (St. John’s Wort) and plumbagin.

blog comments powered by Disqus