Building on two decades of research, the University of Texas California have found that enhancing the process of autophagy leads to a 10 per cent increase in the lifespan as well as healthspan of mammals. Autophagy is a physiological process by which our body eliminates harmful toxic substances and recycles healthier cells. The study was led by Dr Salwa Sebti and Dr Alvarao Fernandez, who are post-doctoral researchers at the Centre for Autophagy research. It was 20 years back Dr Levine discovered beclin-1– a key gene in the cellular process of autophagy. They found that the gene has many health implications and is critical in preventing neurodegenerative diseases, fighting cancer and infection.
The team then decided to check whether increasing the autophagy has any safe and beneficial effects on mammalian health. For this, Dr Levine and colleagues created genetically engineered mice that have increased levels of autophagy. They made by inducing a mutation in the Beclin-1 protein that would interfere with the binding of inhibitor Bcl-2 and inhibits the function of Bcl2. As a result, the mice had increased levels of autophagy in all the organs throughout their lives.
Earlier research revealed that the mouse is partially protected against mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. But in the current research, it was revealed that the mouse also lives 10 per cent longer and healthier. Also, an increase in autophagy may retard ageing and age-related diseases or neurodegeneration. Furthermore, the research also unveiled the potential targets for the development of drugs for increased autophagy. By disruption of Beclin-1 protein binding and inhibiting its interaction with Bcl-2 gene for increased autophagy.
Now the team is working for the development of drugs that target the interaction of these proteins for human patients. The research was published in the journal Nature.