The key to longevity lies in mushrooms: what scientists have discovered

The key to longevity lies in mushrooms: what scientists have discovered

The key to longevity is hidden in the mushrooms that give us beer and wine. An experiment managed to increase the lifespan of a yeast species by 80% by using synthetic biology techniques

More than three decades ago, Thomas Johnson showed that changing a single gene – called age-1 – increased the lifespan of C. elegans worms by up to 60%. Despite the enormous evolutionary distance that separates us from these creatures, useful survival mechanisms jump from branch to branch of the tree of life – they are conserved in the genomes of many species, including humans. What works on a worm or a mouse—or even a species of yeast—need not work on us. But the results from manipulating the life expectancy of these distant relatives encourage the search for genetic changes, writes El Pais.

The answer to longevity

Three years ago, a group of researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) discovered an essential mechanism in the aging process of a single-celled fungus that has been with us since the beginning of civilization. The yeast species called Saccharomyces cerevisiae – which makes bread, beer and wine – follows one of two directions on its way to death. Half of its cells age when DNA loses its stability; the other half, with damage to the mitochondria, a structure that provides energy to the cell.

The same UCSD researchers – led by Nan Hao – recently published an article in the academic journal Science. They explain how they created a kind of switch that, by manipulating two regulators of gene activity, reverses cellular aging. From DNA to mitochondrial degradation, a brewer uses a mechanism to keep yeast cells in balance.

In a similar way to a thermostat – where when a higher temperature is reached, the cooling system increases and when a lower temperature is reached, a heating system turns on – synthetic biology is being applied to introduce a similar system . With what’s known as a genetic oscillator, cells change the way they age when they’ve gone too far in one of two directions. With this game of balance, scientists extended the existence of yeast by up to 80% – a new world record in biology. The researchers suggest that this type of oscillator could also serve to slow down the road to death that begins every time a cell appears in the human body.

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