Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Decrease Cancer-Suppressing Protein Activity, Increase Life Span


Fruit flies can live significantly longer, and remain healthy, when activity of the fly version of the tumor-suppressing protein p53 is reduced in nerve cells. Published in Current Biology, the results shed important new light on the role this "protector of the genome" plays in aging and point to p53 as a viable target for anti-aging drugs.

The p53 gene plays a critical role in the body. It protects human cells by producing a protein that triggers apoptosis, or cell suicide, when DNA is badly damaged. This prevents the spread of genetic mutations and the formation of cancer. When the p53 gene is damaged or missing, cancer may result. In fact, more than 50 percent of human cancers carry p53 mutations.

There is, however, a flip side to this guardian gene. When p53 is hyperactive - pumping out higher-than-normal levels of tumor-suppressing protein - it accelerates aging and shortens life span in mice.

"What this new work shows is that there is a ’golden mean’ with p53," said Stephen Helfand, a Brown University biologist who served as senior scientist for the study. "By targeting a decrease in p53 protein, specifically in neurons, we can extend healthy life span in fruit flies. This is an important conceptual shift. Decreasing the activity of p53 can have positive effects on aging."

Helfand, now a professor in Brown’s Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Bio-chemistry, oversaw the project while at the University of Connecticut Health Center. To test speculation that tinkering with p53 could produce life-extending results, Helfand and colleagues designed an experiment using fruit flies - which share thousands of genes with humans and also express a version of the p53 gene.

The team engineered a line of flies that carried a mutant version of p53. When flies had the altered gene switched on, they produced a mutant form of the p53 protein that deactivated normal p53 protein. But the affect was targeted to occur only in neurons. Why single out neurons? Because adult nerve cells don’t divide - making them much less prone to cancer.

Results showed that adult mutant flies lived up to 58 percent longer - an average of 60 days, up from the average of 38 days. At the same time, the flies appeared healthy, continuing to feed, move and reproduce normally.

The experiment does not explain why targeted, decreased p53 activity extends healthy life span. But it suggests a mechanism - caloric restriction, a biochemical cascade proven to slow aging. To test the hypothesis, the specially engineered flies were fed a calorie-diluted diet. But the flies didn’t live any longer, suggesting that this pathway was, indeed, already in play.

"We believe that p53 is part of the caloric restriction life span extension pathway," Helfand said. "It’s not the entire explanation, but it appears to play a major role."

The research team includes Brown post-doctorate research fellow Johannes Bauer and graduate student Peter Poon, as well as Heather Glatt-Deeley, a research assistant at the University of Connecticut. John Abrams, an associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, also contributed.

The National Institute on Aging, The Donaghue Foundation, the American Federation for Aging Research, The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, and the Ellison Medical Foundation funded the work.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When fat cells change their colour
28.10.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>