UCLA life scientists have identified a gene that slows the aging process. The biologists, working with fruit flies, activated a gene called PGC-1, which increases the activity of mitochondria, the tiny power generators in cells that control cell growth and tell cells when to live and die.
“We took this gene and boosted its activity in different cells and tissues of the fly and asked whether this impacts the aging process,” said David Walker, an assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and a senior author of the study. “We discovered that when we boost PGC-1 within the fly’s digestive tract, the fly lives significantly longer. We also studied neurons, muscle and other tissue types and did not find life extension; this is telling us there is something important about the digestive tract.”
“By activating this one gene in this one tissue — the intestine — the fly lives longer; we slow aging of the intestine, and that has a positive effect on the whole animal,” said Walker, a member of UCLA’s Molecular Biology Institute. “Our study shows that increasing PGC-1 gene activity in the intestine can slow aging, both at the cellular level and at the level of the whole animal.”
The biologists delayed the aging of the flies’ intestines and extended their lives by as much as 50 percent.