Drilling into the trends in genetics and epigenetics of aging and longevity

March 28, 2014, Landes Bioscience

An international group of scientists performed a comprehensive analysis of the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and demonstrated that the majority of the genes, as well as genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in regulation of longevity, are highly interconnected and related to stress response. Also, for the first time, the group performed a comprehensive analysis of government research grants related to the genes involved in aging.

Since the dawn of civilization people were searching for clues to and trying to extend human lifespan. But only in the past two decades with the advances in genetic sequencing, epigenetic analysis, and increased government investments the area experienced rapid expansion in the knowledge base, allowing scientists to develop comprehensive models and theories of aging. And while there is still much disagreement among scientists, the evolutionary theories are dominating the field. These theories predicted existence of certain that provide selective advantage early in life with adverse effects on lifespan later in life or longevity insurance genes. Indeed, the study of human and animal genetics is gradually identifying new genes that increase lifespan when overexpressed or mutated—gerontogenes. Furthermore, genetic and epigenetic mechanisms are being identified that have positive effects on longevity.

"The study of the effects of mutations and epimutations on life expectancy and the aging rate expands the range of potential pharmacological and genoteraputic targets, as well as biomarkers of treatment of aging-dependent pathologies," said professor Alexey Moskalev, PhD, DSc, head of the laboratories for aging research at the Institute of Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

The international group of scientists performed a comprehensive analysis of the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and demonstrated that the majority of the genes, as well as genetic and that are involved in regulation of longevity, are highly interconnected and related to . Also, for the first time, the group performed a comprehensive analysis of government research grants related to the genes involved in aging. One of the tools that may help understand the direction of scientific research that is still unpublished are research grant abstracts. To better understand the general trends in aging genetics, the funding and citation information for the longevity genes was collected using the International Aging Research Portfolio (IARP) system as well as the NCBI PubMed system.

Grants analysis led to interesting conclusions. The science of aging genetics is a comparatively new field. P53 was discovered in 1979 and implicated in aging in 1987. On average, genes in Table 2 were discovered 21 years ago and it took 9.7 years between the first citation and the first citation with "aging." The approximate amount of funding spent on genes related to aging is at over $8.5 billion with over 195,000 citations with the most funding spent on genes involved in stress response. On average approximately 7.4% of the funding was spent on projects with "aging" in the grant application and this was consistent across all three categories. The average amount of funding per citation was over $43,900. The largest amount of funding spent on a single gene with "aging" in the grant abstract was $195 million, which represents fewer than 5% of the total funding spent on P53 research. SIRT1 and homologs is the only gene with over $100 million spent on analyzing its role in aging with just under 14% of the funding spent on non-aging related projects. Most of the genes related to aging and longevity were associated with other biologic processes, and most of the funding and publications citing these genes is related to areas other than aging.

"While most scientists rely on published research data and scientific conferences to follow the advances their areas of research, the vast amount of knowledge is codified in the published research grant abstracts and associated metadata. A comprehensive analysis of government grants and related publications shows that aging research is an emerging field and that only a minor fraction of the research dollars spent on genes implicated in aging and longevity was actually intended for aging research," said professor Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation, UK.

The team also performed the signaling pathway analysis of the genes implicated in aging and longevity and demonstrated that that most of the gerontogenes are members of the stress response pathways that confirm the existence of genetics "longevity program." As a rule, genes—regulators of longevity program—suppress mild stress response and mutations that make some of those pathways less efficient and provide life-extension benefits. Mild overexpression of effector longevity genes, involved with stress-response to DNA, protein, or other cellular damages, prolong lifespan. While moderate stress induces "longevity program" by stimulating expression of life assurance genes and promoting prevention or elimination of errors, including the novel and spontaneous ones, chronic or acute stress exposure exhausts the defense mechanisms and therefore accelerates aging. Pro-aging and anti-aging gene-determined processes exist on all levels of organismal system—from molecules to systems (metabolic, endocrine, immune, and inter-cellular communication). Their multi-level organization, the interpenetration of levels, a combination of regular and stochastic elements, is what makes the process of aging a fractal process.

Explore further: What is known about the pathway to aging well?

More information: The results of the study will be published Open Access in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Cell Cycle, available at https://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/cc/article/28433/.

Related Stories

What is known about the pathway to aging well?

February 16, 2014
Daniel K. Mroczek, professor of psychology and professor of medical social sciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, will discuss his research at a symposium on resilient aging during ...

Slowing the ageing process—it's in your genes

September 5, 2013
Imagine being able to take a drug that can reduce the rate at which you age. Research by Massey University senior lecturer in genetics Dr Austen Ganley is making this dream one step closer to reality.

Key genes that switch off with aging highlighted as potential targets for anti-aging therapies

April 19, 2012
Researchers at King's College London, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, have identified a group of 'ageing' genes that are switched on and off by natural mechanisms called epigenetic factors, influencing ...

Recommended for you

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

Can mice really mirror humans when it comes to cancer?

January 18, 2018
A new Michigan State University study is helping to answer a pressing question among scientists of just how close mice are to people when it comes to researching cancer.

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 despite having no body to work with

January 16, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland, has partly recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827, despite having no body to take tissue samples from. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wealthychef
not rated yet Mar 29, 2014
So where is Table 2? I hate articles that are just a copy and paste from some uncredited other website.

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.