Because these pathways are “conserved,” meaning that they have been passed down to humans through evolution, they have been the subject of intensive research. A number of drugs that extend healthy lifespan by altering these pathways are now under development. The discovery of the synergistic effect opens the door to even more effective anti-aging therapies.
The new research uses a double mutant in which the insulin signaling (IIS) and TOR pathways have been genetically altered. Because alteration of the IIS pathways yields a 100 percent increase in lifespan and alteration of the TOR pathway yields a 30 percent increase, the double mutant would be expected to live 130 percent longer. But instead, its lifespan was amplified by 500 percent.
“Despite the discovery in C. elegans of cellular pathways that govern aging, it hasn’t been clear how these pathways interact,” said Hermann Haller, M.D., president of the MDI Biological Laboratory. “By helping to characterize these interactions, our scientists are paving the way for much-needed therapies to increase healthy lifespan for a rapidly aging population.”
The elucidation of the cellular mechanisms controlling the synergistic response is the subject of a recent paper in the online journal Cell Reports entitled “Translational Regulation of Non-autonomous Mitochondrial Stress Response Promotes Longevity.” The authors include Jarod A. Rollins, Ph.D., and Aric N. Rogers, Ph.D., of the MDI Biological Laboratory.
“The synergistic extension is really wild,” said Rollins, who is the lead author with Jianfeng Lan, Ph.D., of Nanjing University. “The effect isn’t one plus one equals two, it’s one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists in a vacuum; in order to develop the most effective anti-aging treatments, we have to look at longevity networks rather than individual pathways.”
The synergistic interaction may also explain why scientists have been unable to identify a single gene responsible for the ability of some people to live to extraordinary old ages free of major age-related diseases until shortly before their deaths.
The paper focuses on how longevity is regulated in the mitochondria, which are the organelles in the cell responsible for energy homeostasis. Over the last decade, accumulating evidence has suggested a causative link between mitochondrial dysregulation and aging. Rollins’ future research will focus on the further elucidation of the role of mitochondria in aging, he said.