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Increased lifespan through REST protein?
A protein could increase people's life expectancy in the future and protect against diseases such as dementia. The protein is able to slow down the aging process.
A recent study by Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts found that a protein called REST slows down the aging process by suppressing the overactivity of neurons in the brain. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nature".
REST protein affects neuronal activity
Previous research has linked excessive brain activity to memory and attention problems and various disorders including dementia and epilepsy. For example, a brain study of people who died between the ages of 60 and over 100 found that people who died younger had a lower level of the REST protein. Experiments carried out on mice and worms at the time showed that blocking the protein resulted in higher neuronal activity and earlier deaths, but increasing the activity of the protein had the opposite effect.
Could REST become a kind of fountain of youth for humans?
A drug that targets REST could be the secret of defense against age-related diseases in the future and could also provide an anti-aging method for humans, the research team hopes. Previous studies have shown that the nervous system plays a role in aging, but these mechanisms have not been well understood so far.
Brain tissue from deceased people was examined closely
For the study, the donated brain tissue was analyzed by hundreds of people who died between the ages of 60 and over 100 years. None of these participants were diagnosed with age-related brain diseases such as dementia. The researchers then analyzed so-called gene expression patterns, i.e. the extent to which different genes were turned on and off. The participants who had lived the longest had fewer gene expressions, which are associated with neuronal stimulation and overactivity of the neurons in the brain.
Tests on mice confirmed the effect
The team decided to experiment with genetically modified mice and analyze brain tissue to determine whether the lack of neuronal stimulation was among other factors that directly affected lifespan, or whether stimulation was the main factor. When REST was blocked in the animals, their neurons entered a so-called overdrive. Affected animals died earlier.
High REST values are associated with an extended life
To sum up, the high REST values of very old animals and the direct effects of the protein on the longevity of the mice suggest something remarkable: REST helps us to live longer or shorter lives.
How can life expectancy be increased?
Developing a drug that targets REST could be the key to people's longer lives. Strategies that increase REST levels and reduce neuronal activity could be used to influence aging, the researchers explain. A fascinating aspect of the results is that something like the state of activity of neural circuits can have such far-reaching consequences for physiology and lifespan.
REST increases longevity and prevents neurological disorders
Neural arousal seems to be the key to life. REST could also increase longevity by preventing age-related neurological disorders. REST and other molecules that control neuronal excitability are potential targets for interventions to combat age-related breakdown and typical diseases of the elderly. In future research, the team wants to investigate whether neuronal activity is influenced by genetic and / or ecological causes. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Joseph M. Zullo, Derek Drake, Liviu Aron, Patrick O’Hern, Sameer C. Dhamne et al .: Regulation of lifespan by neural excitation and REST, in Nature (query: 17.10.2019), Nature