According to McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Paul Robbins, PhD, and Simon Watkins, PhD, and McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty members Johnny Huard, PhD, and Donna Stolz, PhD, and other researchers at the Pitt's School of Medicine, blocking a protein that regulates the activity of certain genes slowed the aging process in a mouse model of premature aging, as well as in healthy mice, The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to drugs that prevent cellular damage due not only to growing old, but also to cancer and diseases caused by abnormal DNA repair activity.
Aging is thought to be the result of accumulated cellular damage, including DNA damage, but the biological mechanisms that drive aging in response to damage are not understood, said senior author Dr. Robbins. His team studied NF-kappa B, a protein involved in turning certain gene activity on and off in response to inflammation, stress, and cellular damage.
"Other studies have shown that NF-kappa B activity is elevated in aging tissues," Dr. Robbins said. "We examined whether this held true for mice with progeria, a disease of accelerated aging, and what would happen if we blocked NF-kappa B activation."
The researchers found that a higher percentage of cells contained activated NF-kappa B in old and progeroid mice than in healthy adult mice. Age-related activation of NK-kappa B is stochastic, meaning it happens in some but not all cells, they said.
Altering expression of NF-kappa B slightly or blocking its activation with chemicals led to a delay in the onset and reduction in severity of age-related changes in tissues, including muscle, liver, kidney, and the nervous system. Researchers also found that inhibiting the protein reduced free radical-induced oxidative damage.
"It's possible that as we age, NF-kappa B becomes activated by accumulation of cellular damage, and that in turn increases the production of free radicals, resulting in more cell damage," Dr. Robbins said. "An agent that blocks this protein could be used to slow down aging and also to treat certain cancers and diseases such as xeroderma pigmentosum, which are characterized by altered DNA repair activity."
Abstract (NF-?B inhibition delays DNA damage–induced senescence and aging in mice. Jeremy S. Tilstra, Andria R. Robinson, Jin Wang, Siobhán Q. Gregg, Cheryl L. Clauson, Daniel P. Reay, Luigi A. Nasto, Claudette M. St Croix, Arvydas Usas, Nam Vo, Johnny Huard, Paula R. Clemens, Donna B. Stolz, Denis C. Guttridge, Simon C. Watkins, George A. Garinis, Yinsheng Wang, Laura J. Niedernhofer and Paul D. Robbins. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, published June 18, 2012.)