Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lessons From the Worm: How the Elderly Can Live an Active Life

04.09.2013
When the tiny roundworm C. elegans reaches middle age—at about 2 weeks old—it can't quite move like it did in the bloom of youth.

But rather than imposing an exercise regimen to rebuild the worm's body-wall muscles, researchers can bring the wriggle back by stimulating the animal's neurons. And, they say, pharmaceuticals might have a similar effect in mammals.

Scientists at the University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute and Medical School have found that the loss of motor ability associated with aging begins in neurons and spreads to muscles, and that chemically stimulating neurons could "rejuvenate" old roundworms by improving the animals' motor function.

Researchers in the lab of Shawn Xu, the Bernard W. Agranoff Collegiate Professor in the Life Sciences Institute and Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, in collaboration with Ao-Lin Hsu in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Medical School, determined that the motor decline in older worms had roots in early changes in the function of the nervous system that began long before visible deterioration in the structure of the animals' tissues. They were able to reverse the decline in motor ability by giving the worms arecoline, an alkaloid found in the areca nut.

In parts of India and Southeast Asia, where the areca palm grows, people chew the nut as a stimulant, often combined with betel leaf and other ingredients. However, the practice is associated with cancer.

"The pharmacological stimulation of neurons with the chemical improved motor functions in old animals," Xu said. "Understanding the neuron-to-muscle sequence can help find treatments for motor decline in humans. It would be ridiculous to chew areca nuts in hopes of rejuvenating muscle, of course, but the findings suggest that there's potential to develop a drug that works in a similar way for humans."

The research is scheduled for online publication Sept. 3 in Cell Metabolism.

Aging is characterized by gradual, progressive declines in performance of multiple tissues, called functional aging, which ultimately lead to death. While much research has illuminated how genes and the environment affect life span, the mechanisms underlying functional aging in tissues throughout the body have been largely elusive, Xu said.

To understand the role of tissue deterioration in motor-function decline in aging animals, Xu's lab, in collaboration with Hsu, evaluated the functional status of neurons and muscles in the roundworm C. elegans throughout the worms' lifespan, which is about three weeks.

Like other animals, aging C. elegans worms exhibit a decline in motor activity, and old worms are less active than young ones. Was this because of decline in motor neurons controlling muscles in the worms, or because the muscles themselves were weaker?

The researchers in Xu's lab, working with Hsu, outlined a sequence of changes related to the worms' deteriorating ability to move as they grew older. First, relatively early in a nematode's life, the function of motor neurons begins to decline. Later, in nematode middle age the worm's body-wall muscles, which are controlled by the weakened neurons, begin to lose function. Stimulating the neurons with arecoline restored the muscles' function.

"Pharmacological stimulation of the aging nervous system can improve motor functions in aged animals—maybe even mammals," Xu said. "Our studies not only illustrate an example of how functional aging may occur in a genetic model organism, but also provide insights into how genetic and pharmacological interventions may help slow down the rate of such functional aging."

Xu is a faculty member in the Life Sciences Institute, where his laboratory is located and all of his research is conducted. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the Medical School.

Other authors on the paper are Ao-Lin Hsu of the U-M Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Department of Internal Medicine and Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine; Jie Liu of the U-M Life Sciences Institute; Bi Zhang, Haoyun Lei and Jianfeng Liu of the College of Life Science and Technology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China; and Zhaoyang Feng of the Department of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University;

This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, the Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to the Universities from the Ministry of Education, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the Pew Scholar Program.

Shawn Xu: www.lsi.umich.edu/labs/shawn-xu-lab

Life Sciences Institute: www.lsi.umich.edu

Laura J. Williams | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh

nachricht Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>