In a study published today by Nature, researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center used a microscopic worm (C. elegans) to identify a new path that could lead to drugs to slow aging and the chronic diseases that often accompany it—and might even lead to better cosmetics.
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The Joslin team looked at how treatments known to boost longevity in the one-millimeter long C. elegans (including calorie restriction and treatment with the drug rapamycin) affected the expression of genes that produce collagen and other proteins that make up the extra-cellular matrix (ECM), the framework of scaffolding that supports tissues, organs and bones.
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“Any longevity intervention that we looked at, whether genetic or nutritional or drugs, increased expression of collagen and other ECM genes, and enhanced ECM remodeling,” says T. Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D., senior and co-corresponding author on the paper. “If you interfere with this expression, you interfere with the lifespan extension. And if you over-express some of these genes, the worm actually lives a little bit longer.”
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