Personal Liberty Poll
When the DNA in your cells misbehaves, it can speed up the aging process and lead to cancer. But laboratory research at Brown University shows that a simple eating trick may be able to stop that misbehavior while keeping you younger.
The trick is to simply eat less. When scientists took a close look at what they call “parasitic” strands of DNA, genetic material that can run amok, they found that consuming fewer calories can keep these rogue genes under better control
“As (organisms) age we are seeing deregulation of these elements and they begin to be expressed and increase in copy number in the genome,” says researcher Jill Kreiling. “This may be a very important mechanism in leading to genome instability. A lot of the chronic diseases associated with aging, such as cancer, have been associated with genome instability.”
The researchers found that this aging process apparently takes place in many different species. As animals get older, their parasitic DNA, also called RTEs (retrotransposable elements) becomes more active.
“This brings home the magnitude of the problem,” says John Sedivy, a professor at Brown. “We looked in some pretty major tissues. This appears to be a much more widespread phenomenon. The observation that RTEs become activated with chronological aging of (animal) tissues also brings this research in close alignment with very similar discoveries using the fruit fly Drosophila in the labs of Brown Professors Stephen Helfand and Robert Reenan. The remarkable evolutionary conservation of these fundamental molecular processes indicates that they are likely important aspects of aging. ”
In the laboratory, the RTEs proliferated at a lower rate in animals fed 40 percent fewer calories than those who ate normally. Calorie restriction has been frequently demonstrated to offset many consequences of aging in different animal models.
On the other hand, the researchers found that several RTEs were much more abundant in mouse tissues affected by naturally occurring cancers, such as lymphoma and hepatocellular carcinoma.