A new study from the University of Missouri may shed light on how to
increase the level and quality of activity in the elderly. In the study,
published in this week’s edition of Public Library of Science – One,
MU researchers found that gene therapy with a proven "longevity" gene
energized mice during exercise, and might be applicable to humans in the
"Aging is one of the biggest challenges to a modern society. A
pressing issue in the elderly is the loss of activity. What one really
wants is not a simple lifespan prolongation but rather a health span
increase," said Dongsheng Duan, an associate professor of molecular
microbiology and immunology. "After gene therapy with a ‘longevity’
gene, we studied how well the mice performed on treadmill exercises. We
found that the gene therapy worked well and the mice functioned better
after the treatment."
Earlier studies have found that mice would live longer when their
genome was altered to carry a gene known as mitochondria-targeted
catalase gene, or MCAT. However, such approaches would not be applicable
to human. Duan and Dejia Li, a post-doctoral researcher working with
Duan, took a different approach and placed the MCAT gene inside a benign
virus and injected the virus into the mice.
Once injected, Duan and Li tested the mice and found that they could
run farther, faster and longer than mice of the same age and sex. Duan
attributes this performance enhancement to the MCAT and believes the
gene is responsible for removing toxic substances, known as free
radicals, from the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. By using
this specific gene therapy vector, the virus, to introduce the longevity
gene, Duan and Li opened the possibility of human treatment.
"Our results suggest similar therapy may one day improve the life
quality of the elderly" Duan said. "This could have important
implications for many diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, heart
disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. These patients
typically have too many toxic free radicals in their cells."
Source : University of Missouri-Columbia