African fish may hold key to hold back ageing in humans - GulfToday

African fish may hold key to hold back ageing in humans


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Gulf Today Report

Who doesn’t want to remain young forever? This definitely holds much gravity for the middle-aged baby-boomers, those who are past their prime or are put out to pasture.

Many would perhaps love to be in the shoes of Brad Pitt in the movie, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ where he suffers from a strange disease that makes him age backwards, staying remarkably young in the process.

Beauticians are forever devising new methods to keep their female clients as fresh as daisies, keeping at bay such age-related symptoms as crow’s feet.

Now the African turquoise killifish can provide a key pointer to staying young. ‘Suspension animation’ is a state in which species including African turquoise killifish can place themselves in a phenomena known as diapause – as an embryo, effectively halting the ageing process in order to help the organism survive extreme environments.

In other words, diapause allows the animal to put its development or birth on a halt until the conditions improve, like ponds drying up or sudden challenges that pose a risk to the creatures.

The study discovered a protein called CBX7, which appears to increase in production during diapause, played a central role in the regulation of gene switches.

Manipulation of this protein within humans could be possible and raise the prospect of altering the ageing process, researchers said.

More than 130 species of mammals have some form of diapause.

The research showed genes involved in cell proliferation and organ development were switched off during embryonic diapause in killifish.

Research published in the academic journal Science found the embryos put functions such as cell growth and organ development on hold for months and even years without trade-offs for subsequent adult growth, fertility, and life span.

“Nature has identified ways to pause the clock,” said Anne Brunet, a Stanford University geneticist who co-authored the report.

“We think that studying the process of embryonic diapause could provide a fundamental understanding of how cells and tissues could be preserved over long periods because cells and tissues degenerate with age,” Professor Brunet said.

Christoph Englert, a molecular geneticist at the Leibniz Institute on Aging in Germany, said "the new research shifts the paradigm of diapause as a passive, boring state to an active state of embryonic non-development”.

Nematode worm larvae can also halt development and aging when faced with challenging environmental changes or a lack of food. However, invertebrates like nematodes lack many of the features that make other animals age, such as an adaptive immune system.



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