This finding may lead to the development of treatments that increase stress resistance and longevity and improve metabolism. The findings appear in the September 5 online edition of Cell Metabolism.
Over the past several years, it has become clear that fat cells (adipocytes) are more than just repositories to store fat. Indeed, fat cells secrete a number of substances that actively influence metabolism and systemic inflammation. Previous studies have found that reducing fat mass by caloric restriction (CR) or surgical or genetic means can promote longevity and stress resistance in species from yeast to primates.
However, little is known about how CR and fat reduction produce these beneficial effects. This study investigated one type of molecular mediator – change in microRNAs (miRNAs) and the processing enzymes required to make them– that is influenced by aging and reversed by caloric restriction. miRNAs are involved in the formation of mature RNA.
Based on studies conducted using human cells, mice and C. elegans (a microscopic worm used as a model organism for aging studies), the researchers demonstrated that levels of multiple miRNAs, decrease in fat tissue (adipose) with age in all three species. This is due to a decrease in the critical enzyme required from converted pre-miRNAs to mature miRNAs, Dicer. In the human study, which compared the miRNA levels in preadipocytes (fat cell precusors) of young, middle-aged and older people, people aged 70 and older had the lowest miRNA levels. “The fact that this change occurs in humans, mice and worms points to its significance as a general and important process,” says lead author C. Ronald Kahn, MD, Chief Academic Officer at Joslin Diabetes Center and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Caloric restriction, which has been shown to prolong lifespan and improve stress resistance in both mice and worms, prevents this decline of Dicer, and in the case of the mice, restore miRNAs to levels observed in young mice. Conversely, exposure of adipocytes to major stressors associated with aging and metabolic diseases, including toxic agents, Dicer levels decreased. Mice and worms engineered to have decreased Dicer expression in fat showed increased sensitivity to stress, a sign of premature aging. By contrast, worms engineered to “overexpress” Dicer in the intestine (the adipose tissue equivalent in worms) had greater stress resistance and lived longer.
Overall, these studies showed that regulation of miRNA processing in adipose-related tissues plays an important role in longevity and an organism’s ability to respond to age-related and environmental stress. “This study points to a completely new mechanism by which fat might affect lifespan and is the first time that anyone has looked at fat and miRNAs as factors in longevity,” according to co-author T. Keith Blackwell, MD, PhD, co-head of Joslin's Section on Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology and Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School.
Based on this study, Blackwell suggests that “finding ways to improve miRNA processing to keep miRNA levels up during aging might have a role in protecting against the stresses of everyday life and the development of age- and stress-related disease.”
Dr. Kahn and the study investigators are currently working on ways to genetically control Dicer levels in the fat tissues of mice, to create mouse models that are more or less resistant to stress. “We would love to find drugs that would mimic this genetic manipulation to produce a beneficial effect,” says Dr. Kahn. “If we can better understand the biology of aging, we might also understand how age impacts diabetes,” says Kahn.
Study co-authors include Marcelo A. Mori, Prashant Raghavan, Jeremie Boucher, Stacey Robida-Stubbs, Yazmin Macotela, Steven J. Russell, and T. Keith Blackwell of Joslin; and James L. Kirkland and Thomas Thomou of the Mayo Clinic.
About Joslin Diabetes Center
Joslin Diabetes Center, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is the world's largest diabetes research and clinical care organization. Joslin is dedicated to ensuring that people with diabetes live long, healthy lives and offers real hope and progress toward diabetes prevention and a cure. Joslin is an independent, nonprofit institution affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
Our mission is to prevent, treat and cure diabetes. Our vision is a world free of diabetes and its complications.
Jeffrey Bright | Newswise Science News
Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
11.12.2017 | Information Technology