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New insights into why some cells live longer

New insights into why some cells live longer
21st September 2007

Scientists have long known that calorific restriction can extend life expectancy, but now new research is unlocking the secrets of the process.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, working with scientists from Cornell Medical School and the National Institutes of Health, have discovered two genes in mammal cells that direct cellular longevity, SIRT3 and SIRT4.

Senior author David Sinclair said: "We've reason to believe now that these two genes may be potential drug targets for diseases associated with ageing."

The study has underlined the crucial role of mitochondria in sustaining the health and longevity of a cell.

Caloric restriction activates a gene called NAMPT, which in turn leads to the accumulation of a small molecule called NAD in the mitochondria. This then causes the activity of enzymes created by the SIRT3 and SIRT4 to increase as well. Consequently, the mitochondria grow stronger, energy generation increases and the cell's ageing process slows down.

The study appears in the September 21st issue of the journal Cell.