Manipulating Mitochondrial Networks Could Promote Healthy Aging

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public health

Summary: A new research reveals, manipulating mitochondrial networks inside the cells may promote health and increase lifespan.

Mitochondria are generally referred as powerhouses of the cell which produce energy on demand. Mitochondria exist in networks and dynamically changes shape depending on energy demands. Their capacity to do so decreases with age, and its impact on metabolism and cellular functions were unclear previously. But according to a new research at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers have found that manipulating mitochondrial networks inside the cells – by dietary restriction or by genetic manipulation which mimics it may promote health and increase lifespan. Researchers used C. elegans (Nematode Worm) as a model organism as its lifespan is only 2-3 weeks and thus enable to study real-time aging in the lab. The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Mitochondria networks manipulation promotes healthy aging

Mitochondrial networks in the muscle cells of C. elegans. Credit: Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public health

Inside the cells, mitochondrial networks typically toggle between fused and fragmented states. Researchers found that restricting worm’s diet or dietary restriction mimicking through genetic manipulation of AMPK (AMP-activated-protein kinase) – an energy-sensing protein. With this, the mitochondrial networks are maintained in a fused state which considered to be “youthful” state. Further, they found that these youthful networks communicate with peroxisomes (organelle involved in the breakdown of long chain fatty acids) to regulate the fat metabolism and increase the lifespan. These findings open up new doors to design new therapeutic strategies for age-related diseases as we get older.

Associate Prof. William Mair said, “Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology”, “Our work shows how crucial the plasticity of mitochondria networks is for the benefits of fasting. If we lock mitochondria in one state, we completely block the effects of fasting or dietary restriction on longevity.”

More Information: Heather J. Weir, “Dietary Restriction and AMPK Increase Lifespan via Mitochondrial Network and Peroxisome Remodeling”, Cell Metabolism (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.09.024


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