Activating a gene called AMPK in the nervous system induces the anti-aging cellular recycling process of autophagy in both the brain and intestine. Activating AMPK in the intestine leads to increased autophagy in both the intestine and brain. Matthew Ulgherait, David Walker and UCLA colleagues showed that this 'inter-organ' communication during aging can substantially prolong the healthy lifespan of fruit flies.
UCLA biologists have identified a gene that can slow the aging process throughout the entire body when activated remotely in key organ systems.
Working with fruit flies, the life scientists activated a gene called AMPK that is a key energy sensor in cells; it gets activated when cellular energy levels are low.
Increasing the amount of AMPK in fruit flies' intestines increased their lifespans by about 30 percent—to roughly eight weeks from the typical six—and the flies stayed healthier longer as well.
The research, published Sept. 4 in the open-source journal Cell Reports, could have important implications for delaying aging and disease in humans, said David Walker, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and senior author of the research.
"We have shown that when we activate the gene in the intestine or the nervous system, we see the aging process is slowed beyond the organ system in which the gene is activated," Walker said.
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