Researchers have potentially unearthed the secret to maintaining healthy ageing, buried deep within our body’s cells.
In groundbreaking findings, Associate Professor Steven Zuryn and Dr. Michael Dai from the Queensland Brain Institute uncovered the role of a protein called ATSF-1 in maintaining the delicate balance between generating fresh mitochondria and restoring damaged ones.
Mitochondria, which possess their own DNA, are responsible for producing cellular energy but also generate harmful by-products that impact the ageing process of cells.
Zuryn explained that “in conditions of stress when mitochondrial DNA has been damaged, the ATSF-1 protein prioritises repair which promotes cellular health and longevity.”
Zuryn further highlighted the “exciting implications” that their findings hold for maintaining optimal health well into old age.
“We studied ATFS-1 in C. elegans, or round worms and saw that enhancing its function promoted cellular health, meaning the worms became more agile for longer,” he said.
“They didn’t live longer, but they were healthier as they aged.
“Mitochondrial dysfunction lies at the core of many human diseases, including common age-related diseases such as dementias and Parkinson’s.
“Our finding could have exciting implications for healthy ageing and for people with inherited mitochondrial diseases.”
— Queensland Brain Institute, UQ (@QldBrainInst) July 17, 2023
Dai explained that the goal of their research efforts is “to prolong the tissue and organ functions that typically decline during ageing by understanding how deteriorating mitochondria contribute to this process.”
“We may ultimately design interventions that keep mitochondrial DNA healthier for longer, improving our quality of life,” he revealed.
While Zuryn and Dai examine the innermost workings of the human body in order to attain healthy ageing, a recent study conducted by the University of Toronto looked outwards and established a link between social participation and successful ageing in individuals aged 60 and over.
The study revealed that those who actively engaged in volunteer work or recreational activities had a higher likelihood of maintaining excellent health over a span of three years.
The study involved 7,000 older adults who were already ageing successfully with the aim of exploring if social participation affected their ability to maintain their health.
The findings showed that among those who participated in volunteer work or recreational activities at the start of the study, around 72 per cent, continued to age successfully after three years.
On the other hand, only two-thirds of those who did not engage in such activities were able to maintain successful ageing.
Taking into account other sociodemographic factors, the results showed that those involved in recreational activities and volunteer or charity work had a 15 per cent to 17 per cent higher chance of maintaining their excellent health as they aged.