UK researchers showed that resveralogues, chemicals based on resveratrol, were able to switch a specific category of genes back on that not only made cells look youthful, but start to behave more like young cells and start dividing.
The discovery could well contribute to a healthier ageing approach, in which degenerative effects associated with getting old could be alleviated.
“This is a first step in trying to make people live normal lifespans, but with health for their entire life,” said Dr Lorna Harries, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Exeter.
“Our data suggests that using chemicals to switch back on the major class of genes that are switched off as we age might provide a means to restore function to old cells.”
Evolva and DSM
Research into resveratrol stretches back to nearly eighty years as one of the most studied nutrients currently available today. It has been linked with everything from cancer to heart and cardiovascular health.
It is a starting point for a number of companies that are working with the natural phenol to impact on various age-related issues such as bone health, blood glucose, insulin and blood pressure levels.
Swiss-based Evolva recently announced a collaboration with Northumbria University’s to study its Veri-te resveratrol in how this dietary supplement affects obesity, gut health (through microbiota populations), systemic inflammation, cognitive function, cerebral and peripheral blood-flow.
Dutch multinational DSM are also in the market with its synthetic trans-resveratrol product ResVida.
Scientists in Australia found that a daily 150 mg dose of ResVida enhanced cerebrovascular function and cognition in post-menopausal women, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
Other manufacturers with an interest in resveratrol include US-based firms Sabinsa and Interhealth, acquired by Lonza in September 2016.
In a collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Brighton, the team applied the selected resveralogues to cells in culture.
This compound was selected for testing from a resveralogue library, designed and synthesised by the University of Brighton’s Dr Vishal Birar. The library was able to categorise those compounds that were capable of either directly or indirectly influencing the expression of multiple splicing factors.
Not only did the cells demonstrated a restored splicing factor function, they were also found to have an increased telomere length, often referred to as the 'caps' on the chromosomes which shorten as ageing occurs.
“This demonstrates that when you treat old cells with molecules that restore the levels of the splicing factors, the cells regain some features of youth,” Dr Harries added.
“They are able to grow, and their telomeres are now longer, as they are in young cells.”
Professor Richard Faragher, the university’s professor of biogerontology, said the breakthrough should generate more research into tackling health issues associated with ageing.
"These findings illustrate the enormous potential of ageing research to improve the quality of later life. Older people no more want to be sickly ‘frequent flyers’ with the NHS than teenagers do.
“A recent Government report recognised historic underinvestment in ageing research in the UK. I say to politicians of all parties: Redress this now and give our older people the healthy futures they deserve.”
Source: BMC Cell Biology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1186/s12860-017-0147-7
“Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence.”
Authors: Lorna Harries et al