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There are no genes of ageing, but there is a program for it


Probably, animals and human beings possess a biochemical vehicle for measuring life span. The key role in this vehicle is played by a short DNA - chronomere. The chronomeric ageing theory, based on tremendous experimental material, has been developed with support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.

Early in the 70s of the 20th century, Russian researcher Alexy Olovnikov forecast existence of the chromosomes’’ end sequences - telomer, which shorten after each cell division. Aa lot of scientists believe now that telomer shortening leads to cell ageing. However, A.M. Olovnikov is convinced that telomer shortening is only the witness of ageing, and special DNA molecules – chronomeres - are responsible for ageing processes. Chronomeres are located in non-dividing cells of the cerebrum. So far, this is only a hypothesis based on the tremendous experimental material collected by Russian and foreign researches within the recent years.

The chronomere – is a copy of a tiny sector of a chromosome’s DNA. Its length makes, apparently, 10 to15 thousand pairs of nucleotides. The chronomere is covered by proteins and lies in a special cavity, like in a nest, between coils of the chromosome which gave birth to it, the chronomere being tied up with the chromosome by chemical bonds. The chronomere contains several genes, from which a special enzyme (RNA-polymerase) prints short RNA molecules. These RNAs interact with certain chromosome’s genes, influence their activity, and, consequently, affect the entire cell’s activity.

Periodically hormonal storms – the hormones bursts following one after another at certain frequency - break the chronomeres’monotonous existence. These bursts last for about ten minutes and they most probably engage the growth hormone and/or insulin-like factor. Calm periods depend on the species the organism belongs to. An adult person may have the “bursts” probably once a month (lunar rhythm) or once in two weeks. At that period, RNA- polymerase rushes along the chronomere extremely fast. Along with that, enormous mechanical stress occurs on the DNA molecule, the stress tearing up the chronomere. While the chronomere restores the break and resumes its position in the chromosome “nest”, other cellular enzymes have time to “eat it up” significantly. Thus, chronomere shortens and gradually loses the genes with the help of which it stimulates the activity of central nervous system cells which, in their turn, direct the activity of the peripheral body cells subordinated to them. Seemingly, different types of cerebral cells have chronomeres different in specificity, and in general, an entire chronomere network exists in the central nervous system. That is why the chronomeres’ shortening leads gradually to wasting away of practically all systems, organs and tissues of a multicellular organism, although this does not happen simultaneously. A large number of indications controlled by chronomeres in the course of the organism development, turn out later to be numerous indications of its ageing. It is no accident that researchers of various vertebrate and invertebrate species accordingly testify that the brain is the leading organ in the organism ageing.

Chronomeres have not been found yet, because nobody looked for them and they are hard to find. Even the Human Genome program has failed to find the small molecules, successions of which are indistinguishable from respective successions of chromosomal DNA. Nevertheless, some data exists which confirms the possibility of chronomeres’ existence. Thus, Uruguayan cytogeneticists have found unusual tiny cavities in chromosomes. Probably, these are the “nests”, from where chronomeres fell out in the course of preparation of microscopical medications.

A.M. Olovnikov is convinced that natural ageing is programmed. Ageing is based not on some ageing genes’ action, but a single universal vehicle - shortening of chronomeres. Each shortening is a click of biological clock, which measures the life span of an animal and duration of its ageing. Proceeding from possible chronomeres’ properties, A.M. Olovnikov suggests several theoretically feasible genetic engineering methods for protecting chronomeres or restoring them after damages. But there is a long way from theoretical “immortality“ through to its practical implementation. First of all, chronimeres should be discovered.

Sergey Komarov | Informnauka
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