Does presence of oxidants early in life help determine life span?

July 19, 2012
Microscope image of a C. elegans roundworm expressing a fluorescent hydrogen peroxide sensor in the body wall muscle cells, indicated in pink and yellow. A second fluorescent protein is expressed in the head region, shown in white. Image provided by Daniela Knoefler

Why do we age, and what makes some of us live longer than others? For decades, researchers have been trying to answer these questions by elucidating the molecular causes of aging.

One of the most popular theories is that the accumulation of over time might be the underlying culprit in aging. Oxygen radicals are chemically that can damage such as lipids, proteins and , resulting in "oxidative stress."

The possible link between oxidative stress and aging has led to the proliferation of antioxidant products ranging from to anti-aging creams. However, the role of oxidative stress in aging is still controversial, and the effectiveness of these antioxidants is debatable.

In a paper to be published online July 19 in the journal Molecular Cell, University of Michigan Ursula Jakob and her co-workers measured reactive in worms and identified the processes affected by oxidative stress.

Using the small roundworm C. elegans, a popular for aging studies, they made several surprising observations. They found that these animals are forced to deal with very high levels of reactive oxygen species long before old age. High levels of reactive oxygen were found to accumulate during early development (i.e., the childhood of the worm).

Once these worms reached adulthood the levels of reactive oxygen declined, only to surge again later in life. Intriguingly, mutant worm variants that were destined to live a very long time were able to cope much better with reactive oxygen and recovered earlier than short-lived variants.

This finding suggests that the ability to deal with and recover from early oxidative stress might be a harbinger of the lifespan of the animals, according to the U-M researchers.

"We fully expected to see increased levels of reactive oxygen species in older animals, but the observation that very young animals transiently produce these very high levels of oxidants came truly as a big surprise," said Daniela Knoefler, a doctoral candidate in Jakob's lab and one of the lead authors of the study.

"Of course, we have no idea whether this is also the case in humans," said Jakob, a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and a professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Medical School.

"However, there are some convincing studies conducted in mice which show that manipulating metabolism in the first few weeks of life can produce a substantial slowing of the aging process and increase in life span," Jakob said.

Now, the search is on to discover the mechanism behind this early oxidant accumulation and the fascinating possibility that by manipulating these levels of reactive oxygen early in life, researchers could potentially affect the lifespan of the organisms, Jakob said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels

November 23, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a signaling pathway that is essential for angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. The ...

Researchers find infectious prions in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease patient skin

November 22, 2017
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)—the human equivalent of mad cow disease—is caused by rogue, misfolded protein aggregates termed prions, which are infectious and cause fatal damages in the patient's brain. CJD patients ...

Surprising roles for muscle in tissue regeneration, study finds

November 22, 2017
A team of researchers at Whitehead has illuminated an important role for different subtypes of muscle cells in orchestrating the process of tissue regeneration. In a paper published in the November 22 issue of Nature, they ...

Study reveals new mechanisms of cell death in neurodegenerative disorders

November 22, 2017
Researchers at King's College London have discovered new mechanisms of cell death, which may be involved in debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells

November 21, 2017
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined how a common holiday spice—cinnamon—might be enlisted in the fight against obesity.

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

0 comments

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.