More evidence for longevity pathway

May 1, 2012

New research reinforces the claim that resveratrol—a compound found in plants and food groups, notably red wine—prolongs lifespan and health-span by boosting the activity of mitochondria, the cell's energy supplier.

"The results were surprisingly clear," said David Sinclair, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and the study's senior author. "Without the mitochondria-boosting gene SIRT1, resveratrol does not work."

The findings are to be published May 1 in the journal Cell .

Over the last decade, Sinclair and colleagues including Leonard Guarente at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have published a body of research describing how resveratrol improves energy production and overall health in cells by activating a class of genes called sirtuins that are integral to mitochondrial function. The cell's power supplier, mitochondria are essential not just for but for overall health.

Sinclair and colleagues had studied sirtuins in a variety of model organisms: yeast, worms, flies and mice. For the first three organisms they were able to thoroughly knock out SIRT1 and show that cells lacking the gene don't respond to resveratrol. But no one had been able to demonstrate the effect in mice, which die at birth without the SIRT1 gene.

In order to solve this obstacle, Nathan Price and Ana Gomes, graduate students in the Sinclair lab, spent three years engineering a new mouse model. These mice, seemingly normal in every way, were designed so that SIRT1 would systemically switch off when the mice were given the drug Tamoxifen.

"This is a drug inducible, whole body deletion of a gene," said Sinclair. "This is something that's rarely been done so efficiently. Moving forward, this mouse model will be valuable to many different labs for other areas of research."

The results were plain: when mice were given low doses of resveratrol after SIRT1 was disabled, the researchers found no discernable improvement in mitochondrial function. In contrast, the mice with normal SIRT1 function given resveratrol showed dramatic increases in energy.

While the tantalizing prospect of increasing healthy lifespan has made resveratrol the subject of intense scientific interest, some researchers have questioned the link to SIRT1. A competing theory holds that resveratrol may work by activating a separate energy pathway called AMPK, which, while also related to mitochondria, does not involve sirtuin genes.

In their new paper, Sinclair and colleagues report that when mice lacking SIRT1 were given low doses of resveratrol, AMPK was unaffected. When doses were significantly increased in these mice, AMPK was activated, but still no benefit to mitochondrial function resulted.

"Resveratrol is a dirty molecule, so when you give very, very high doses, many things could be happening," said Sinclair. "It's standard when you study molecules that you use the lowest dose that gives you an effect because of the risk of hitting other things if you use too much. But for the downstream benefits on energy, you still need SIRT1. Our paper shows that SIRT1 is front and center for any dose of resveratrol."

More information: Cell Metabolism, May, 2012, Vol 15, No 5

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brain cells found to control aging

July 26, 2017
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found that stem cells in the brain's hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body. The finding, made in mice, could lead to new strategies for warding off age-related ...

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with new exosuit technology

July 26, 2017
Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, ...

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

poke
not rated yet May 02, 2012
This study is not surprising as there have been hundreds of studies on the benefits of polyphenols like resveratrol and many on pterostilbene which may be even more powerful than resveratrol and comes from blueberries. Cutting edge supplements now exist which contain both pterostilbene and resveratrol in optinal quantities such as biotivia pteromax. The combination of these two molecules is complementary and synergistic without any side effects. The benefits are higher energy, better sleep , increased endurance and natural weight loss.
jamesinraro
not rated yet May 02, 2012
This is the long overdue confirmation that transmax resveratrol, the extract used in most of the human clinical trials on resveratrol's potential health effects, does absolutely activate the so called anti aging gene set, the sirtuins, and specifically SIRT-1. Furthermore high doses of resveratrol were able to produce the beneficial effects even in sirt knock out mice. This is extremely important to researchers studying transmax's ability do prevent type 2 diabetes, cancer and some heart conditions. It may also lead to the application of a resveratrol like drug for the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Also, in a recently published study by Albert Einstein Med College transmax was shown to be extremely effective at preventing metabolic syndrom from progressing to full blown type 2 diabetes.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.