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Molecules discovered that extend life in yeast, human cells

BOSTON, MA Mice, rats, worms, flies, and yeast all live longer on a low-calorie diet, which also seems to protect mammals against cancer and other aging-related diseases. Now, in yeast cells, researchers at Harvard Medical School and BIOMOL Research Laboratories have for the first time found a way to duplicate the benefits of restricted calories in yeast with a group of compounds found in red wine and vegetables. One compound extended yeast life span by up to 80 percent. The molecules are also active in human cells cultured in the laboratory.

The findings are reported in the August 24 Nature advanced online edition. The research suggests a promising route to find and develop drugs to lengthen life and prevent or treat aging-related diseases.

The molecules belong to a familiar group of compounds known as polyphenols, such as the resveratrol found in red wine and the flavones found in olive oil. For these particular polyphenols, the beneficial effects seem to be independent of their famed antioxidant properties. Instead, the molecules activate sirtuins, a family of enzymes known to extend the life span of yeast and tiny lab round worms. In screening tests, the researchers found 17 molecules that stimulated SIRT1, one of seven human sirtuins, and the yeast sirtuin SIR2.

"We think sirtuins buy cells time to repair damage," said molecular biologist David Sinclair, assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the new study. "There is a growing realization from the aging field that blocking cell death -- as long as it doesn't lead to cancer -- extends life span."

"The sirtuin stimulation provided by certain, but not all, polyphenols may be a far more important biological effect than their antioxidant action," said co-author Konrad Howitz, director of molecular biology at BIOMOL, a biochemical reagents company in Pennsylvania.

Calorie restriction (in mammals, reducing intake to 60 or 70 percent
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Contact: John Lacey
public_affairs@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0442
Harvard Medical School
24-Aug-2003


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