Scientists have discovered a class of molecules that can both prolong life and prevent age-related ailments, helping provide a physiological explanation for why older people are more susceptible to so many diseases.



In the May issue of the journal Science, aging researcher Cynthia Kenyon, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California San Francisco, reports a new finding about molecules called small heat-shock proteins.



The molecules are known to assemble into complexes that bind to damaged or unfolded cellular proteins. They are created when cells are exposed to high temperatures or other stresses such as toxins and ultraviolet light.



Kenyon says that small heat-shock proteins not only prevent the formation of harmful aggregates associated with such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, but can also extend lifespan.

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