Monday, January 14, 2008

Wham: Calorie Restriction Leads to 10x Life Span Increase in Yeast

Anyone who reads about the booming research field of life extension would be interested in this one. Here's yet another proof that calorie restriction works . . . A new study in PLOS Genetics shows that biologists have achieved a 10-fold life span extension in ordinary baker's yeast. This new discovery provides insight into aging mechanisms shared with humans and other mammals and will really set the stage for more R&D in the anti-aging market.

Biologists have created baker’s yeast capable of living to 800 in yeast years without apparent side effects. This important discovery, achieved through a combination of dietary and genetic changes, brings science closer to controlling the survival and health of the unit of all living systems: the cell.

“We’re setting the foundation for reprogramming healthy life,” said study leader Valter Longo of the University of Southern California.

A companion study, showing that the same genetic changes in yeast reverse the course of an accelerated aging syndrome, appears in the Jan. 14 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology. This research team put baker’s yeast on a calorie-restricted diet and knocked out two genes, RAS2 and SCH9, that promote aging in yeast and cancer in humans.

“We got a 10-fold life span extension that is, I think, the longest one that has ever been achieved in any organism,” Longo said. In 2005, the same research group reported a five-fold life span extension in the journal Cell. Normal yeast organisms live about a week.

“I would say 10-fold is pretty significant,” said Anna McCormick, chief of the genetics and cell biology branch at the National Institute on Aging and Longo’s program officer.

The NIA funds such research in the hope of extending healthy life span in humans through the development of drugs that mimic the life-prolonging techniques used by Longo and others, McCormick added.

Baker’s yeast is one of the most studied and best understood organisms at the molecular and genetic level. Remarkably in light of its simplicity, yeast has led to the discovery of some of the most important genes and pathways regulating aging and disease in mice and other mammals.

Calorie restriction – in practice, controlled starvation – has long been shown to reduce disease and extend life span in species from yeast to mice.

Scientists believe that a nutrient shortage kicks organisms into a maintenance mode, enabling them to re-direct energy from growth and reproduction into anti-aging systems until the time they can feed and breed again. Calorie restriction is now being tested by other researchers on primates and even humans.


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