Using Gene Therapy to Make Old Cells Look Young
If asked, I suspect many people will tell you they are not looking forward to growing old, or wish they were younger if they are already old. In part this is because of the many health issues associated with old age, so it is not surprising that researchers are looking for ways to counter advancing years. Those at Tel Aviv University have recently identified some genes that can be targeted to extend the lifespan of yeast using advanced algorithms.
To perform the study the researchers used genome-scale metabolic modeling, which allow the processes within a cell to be experimented with at-will on a computer. By developing what they call a metabolic transformation algorithm (MTA) the researchers were able to predict what factors can change one metabolic state to another, just by feeding it information on the two states. The results indicated that by switching off two genes, it should be possible to keep yeast cells behaving as though they are young. When tested in real yeast, it was found that the cells did have a significantly longer lifespan, similar to that of calorie reduction, which is known to extend lifespan in some organisms.
Of course the question is if this work could impact human lives and the answer is maybe, but only some time into the future. Next the researchers are going to work with mice, but the MTA could also be used to find drug targets for disorders that metabolism affects, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and neurodegenerative disorders.