Researchers at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz have made a breakthrough in understanding the origin of the ageing process. They have identified that genes belonging to a process called autophagy – one of the cells most critical survival processes – promote health and fitness in young worms but drive the process of ageing later in life. This research published in the journal Genes & Development gives some of the first clear evidence for how the ageing process arises as a quirk of evolution. These findings may also have broader implications for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease where autophagy is implicated. The researchers show that by promoting longevity through shutting down autophagy in old worms there is a strong improvement in neuronal and subsequent whole body health.
Getting old, it’s something that happens to everyone and nearly every species on this planet, but the question is, should it? In a recent publication in the journal Genes & Development titled “Neuronal inhibition of the autophagy nucleation complex extends lifespan in post-reproductive C. elegans,” the laboratory of Dr. Holger Richly at IMB, has found some of the first genetic evidence that may put this question to rest.