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Biologists discover how yeast cells reverse aging

June 27, 2011
Yeast Cell

A whole yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) cell viewed by X-ray microscopy. Inside, the nucleus and a large vacuole (red) are visible (credit: NIH)

Researchers at MIT have discovered a gene called NDT80 that can double yeast lifespan when turned on late in life.

The gene is activated when yeast cell rejuvenation occurs. When they turned on this gene in aged cells that were not reproducing, the cells lived twice as long as normal.

The MIT team found that the signs of cellular aging disappear at the very end of meiosis (which produces spores). “There’s a true rejuvenation going on,” said professor Angelika Amon.

In aged cells with activated NDT80, the nucleolar damage was the only age-related change that disappeared. That suggests that nucleolar changes are the primary force behind the aging process, Amon said.

If the human cell lifespan is controlled in a similar way, it could offer a new approach to rejuvenating human cells or creating pluripotent stem cells, Amon said.

Ref.: Amon, et al., Gametogenesis Eliminates Age-Induced Cellular Damage and Resets Life Span in Yeast, Science, June 2011, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1204349]

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