1153 GMT March 21, 2018
Almost all animal cells host the enzyme RNA polymerase III, or Pol III. Previous studies have shown the enzyme to be important to protein synthesis and cell growth, but the latest findings — published in the journal Nature — are the first to reveal its role in the aging process, UPI reported.
A team of researchers from University College London (UCL), University of Kent and University of Groningen found a reduction in the expression of Pol III was correlated with a 10 percent increase in lifespan.
Danny Filer, a researcher at the UCL Institute of Healthy Aging, said "We've uncovered a fundamental role for Pol III in adult flies and worms: Its activity negatively impacts stem cell function, gut health and the animal's survival.
"When we inhibit its activity, we can improve all these."
The breakthrough could inspire new drugs.
Filer added, "As Pol III has the same structure and function across species, we think its role in mammals, and humans, warrants investigation as it may lead to important therapies.”
Scientists have previously prolonged the lives of mice and other animals using the drug rapamycin, an immune suppressor. The latest research showed curbing Pol III activity works in a similar way.
Nazif Alic, a researcher in the Institute of Healthy Aging, said, "Understandably, there's a lot of hype around drugs that extend lifespan and promote healthy aging but very little is known about how they work, which is fundamental knowledge.”
Scientists think rapamycin inhibited a signal that tells Pol III to accelerate growth and aging.
The new research suggested directly inhibiting Pol III has the same effect on an organism's cellular metabolism and lifespan.
Researchers used a combination of genetic techniques to inhibit the expression of Pol III in adult worms and flies.
They found curbing Pol III activity in the guts of worms and flies was enough to extend the animals' lives.
Researcher Jennifer Tullet said, "It is amazing that we can make one genetic adjustment and positively impact on lifespan and intestinal health, understanding more about the underlying molecules at work here promises new strategies for anti-aging therapies.”