New research has identified a novel approach to staving off the detrimental effects of aging, according to a study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The study suggests that a protein that is abundant in the blood of young mice plays a vital role in keeping mice healthy. With age, levels of this protein decline in mice and people, while health problems such as insulin resistance, weight gain, cognitive decline and vision loss increase. Supplementing older mice with the protein obtained from younger mice appears to slow this decline in health and extend the life spans of older mice by about 16 percent.
The study is published June 13 in the journal Cell Metabolism.
The circulating protein is an enzyme called eNAMPT, which is known to orchestrate a key step in the process cells use to make energy. With age, the body’s cells become less and less efficient at producing this fuel — called NAD — which is required to keep the body healthy. Washington University researchers have shown that supplementing eNAMPT in older mice with that of younger mice appears to be one route to boosting NAD fuel production and keeping aging at bay.
“We have found a totally new pathway toward healthy aging,” said senior author Shin-ichiro Imai, MD, PhD, a professor of developmental biology. “That we can take eNAMPT from the blood of young mice and give it to older mice and see that the older mice show marked improvements in health — including increased physical activity and better sleep — is remarkable.”