Trametinib inhibits the same signal pathway in flies and humans and could thus conceivably also extend life expectancy in humans
Humans, yeasts and fruit flies began to evolve separately millions of years ago. Nevertheless, the cellular processes which regulate cell division and cell death – and therefore the mechanism of ageing – are similar in all of them. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne and University College London have now succeeded in controlling this mechanism, thus extending life expectancy in fruit flies by around twelve percent.
They achieved this with the help of a cancer drug called Trametinib. Human cells contain the same molecular switches that Trametinib targets in fruit flies. It is therefore conceivable that the substance could be used to develop future anti-ageing drugs to extend life expectancy in humans.
To ensure a long and healthy life in humans, researchers have to understand the ageing process at the cellular level more precisely. A scientific study has now shown how Ras proteins can be manipulated to prolong the lifespans of animals.
Ras proteins play a key role in the regulation of cell processes. As molecular switches within the cellular signalling network, they control vital functions such as cell division, cell death, specialisation and metabolism. They regulate these intracellular processes via the Ras-Erk-ETS signal pathway. This network has been conserved over hundreds of millions of years of evolution and is present in single-cell organisms such as yeasts, in insects such as the fruit fly (Drosophila), as well as in mammals such as mice and humans.
It was already known that inhibition of this signal pathway can prolong the life expectancy of yeast cells. However, to achieve this, the scientists had thus far manipulated the DNA directly in order to deactivate individual genes and with them the Ras signal pathway. However, no substance was known that could slow the ageing process at this interface. Recent work by the research team has now filled this gap.
The scientists took advantage of the fact that the Ras-Erk-ETS signal pathway has been thoroughly researched in the context of cancer treatment. This is because overactivation of Ras is carcinogenic: in around a third of cancer patients, the Ras proteins of cancer cells are mutated, resulting in uncontrolled cellular division. Many cancer researchers have therefore focussed on this signal pathway - and the first drugs have already been developed to interfere with Ras signalling in order to check cancerous growth.
The researchers administered one of those substances, Trametinib, to fruit flies in the form of a food additive. Even a small dose, which is approximately equivalent to a daily dose of the drug in a human patient, increased the fruit flies’ average life expectancy by eight percent. With a moderate dose, the flies lived twelve percent longer on average.
Any drug suitable for anti-ageing applications must be effective even if it is administered during an advanced phase of life. The scientists successfully demonstrated this property. In a substudy, they administered the substance for the first time to Drosophila that were 30 days old – a ripe old age for this species. At this point, egg laying, i.e. the insects’ fertile phase, has ceased. Even when a moderate dose of the substance was given to the flies at this late point in their lifespan, it still increased their average life expectancy by seven percent. The researchers observed no adverse effects on the insects’ digestive system or food intake.
“Our findings indicate what substance classes could be used to slow the ageing process in humans,” explains Nazif Alic of University College London. “The Ras-Erk-ETS signal pathway could serve as a target for those substances.” The aim now is to investigate this pathway more closely. “The study suggests that inhibition of this signal pathway has positive effects on longevity and mortality,” says Cathy Slack, who researches at University College London and at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing. Slack emphasises that Trametinib has been approved by the FDA as a drug for the treatment of skin cancer and is therefore already in clinical use.
In mammals, Ras acts as a mediator for the insulin/IGF-1 signal pathway, which modulates life expectancy. Ras activation has effects on both the PI3/Akt and Erk/Mapk signal pathways. Until now, it was assumed that the PI3/Akt branch is primarily responsible for modulating lifespan. The findings show, however, that the Erk branch is also important in this regard. Two transcription factors controlled by Ras-Erk appear to be key mediators of these effects: Pnt, a gene expression activator, and Aop, a repressor. It therefore appears likely that life expectancy can be regulated via both branches of the signal pathway.
Prof. Dr. Linda Partridge
Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Köln
Phone: +49 221 37970-602
Scientific and Personal Assistance:
Dr. Christine Lesch
Cathy Slack, Nazif Alic, Andrea Foley, Melissa Cabecinha, Matthew P. Hoddinott, and Linda Partridge
The Ras-Erk-ETS signalling pathway is a drug target for longevity
Cell; 25 June, 2015
Prof. Dr. Linda Partridge | Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Köln
Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Migrating Cells: Folds in the cell membrane supply material for necessary blebs
23.11.2017 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
23.11.2017 | Information Technology
23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.11.2017 | Life Sciences