As we age, our cells naturally degrade and become less efficient, leading to decreased mobility and vitality. However, researchers from the University of California San Diego have discovered a way to extend cell lifespan and promote longevity using a synthetic genetic clock.
Using yeast cells, the team was able to increase their lifespan by 82% on average by “rewiring” their genetic circuits. While the research focused on yeast cells, the team believes it could eventually lead to ways to promote healthier aging in humans.
The key to the study was editing the genetic circuits responsible for regulating cellular processes and mitigating wear and tear. By understanding how these circuits function, scientists can tweak them to promote longevity.
Through computer modeling, the researchers determined that the cell aging circuit swings between two states of aging, both of which can cause wear and tear. They then implemented a tweak to the circuit so that cells swung between the two states, resulting in slower aging.
While the cells did not stop aging, the ticking of the clock was slowed down. The cells with the synthetic genetic circuit also grew and split faster than untreated cells, suggesting they remained healthy.
Although the findings were observed in yeast cells, the researchers hope to test it in other types of cells to see if the increase in longevity holds. The use of synthetic biology and engineering principles to redesign gene circuits and reprogram the aging process effectively promotes longevity, according to molecular biologist Nan Hao.
Careful tweaking of genetic codes inside cells can be done through a variety of techniques and has multiple applications, such as improving crop resilience. While humans may not live forever any time soon, this promising development could lead to healthier aging and treating age-related conditions.
By Impact Lab