That, in short, is the message drawn from research published today, Oct. 28, by a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a research group led by UW-Madison genetics Professor Tomas A. Prolla, and Medical School Professor Richard Weindruch, reports the results of a study in which middle-aged mice, put on a calorie-restricted diet, exhibit signs of a remarkable uptick in heart health in old age. "It looks like caloric restriction just retarded the whole aging process in the heart," said Prolla whose group employed powerful molecular techniques to study nearly 10,000 genes at work in the heart. The work represents the first global analysis of gene expression in the aging heart.
Results from the PNAS study, conducted by Prolla and Weindruch with colleagues Cheol-Koo Lee, also of UW-Madison, and David Allison and Jaap Brand of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, provide new insight into the pattern of genetic change that occurs in heart cells as the organ ages, and how those changes can be mitigated by eating less.
Importantly, the study identifies genetic pressure points for stemming age-related heart disease, long the number one cause of death in the United States. Such knowledge can help pharmaceutical companies identify medicines that may be able to prevent the genetic changes that underlie heart disease.
Caloric restriction, where diets remain nutritious but are reduced in calories, is the only known way to extend life span. Numerous studies, including of primates, mice, spiders and other animals, have demonstrated significant health benefits and a general slowing of the process of aging. In some instances, the life span of experimental animals has been increased by as much as a third. In 1982, Weindruch and his colleague Roy Walford discovered that caloric restriction, be
Contact: Tomas Prolla
University of Wisconsin-Madison