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

Study confirms link between the number of older brothers and increased odds of being homosexual

December 12, 2017
Groundbreaking research led by a team from Brock University has further confirmed that sexual orientation for men is likely determined in the womb.

Estrogen discovery could shed new light on fertility problems

December 12, 2017
Estrogen produced in the brain is necessary for ovulation in monkeys, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who have upended the traditional understanding of the hormonal cascade that leads to release ...

Time of day affects severity of autoimmune disease

December 12, 2017
Insights into how the body clock and time of day influence immune responses are revealed today in a study published in leading international journal Nature Communications. Understanding the effect of the interplay between ...

Potassium is critical to circadian rhythms in human red blood cells

December 12, 2017
An innovative new study from the University of Surrey and Cambridge's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, has uncovered the secrets of the circadian rhythms in ...

3-D printed microfibers could provide structure for artificially grown body parts

December 12, 2017
Much as a frame provides structural support for a house and the chassis provides strength and shape for a car, a team of Penn State engineers believe they have a way to create the structural framework for growing living tissue ...

Team identifies DNA element that may cause rare movement disorder

December 11, 2017
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers has identified a specific genetic change that may be the cause of a rare but severe neurological disorder called X-linked dystonia parkinsonism (XDP). Occurring only ...

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.