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Study details genetic basis of aging -- and how it might be delayed

MADISON, WISC. - Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have, for the first time, profiled specific genetic changes during the aging of experimental animals, a discovery that could aid work to extend life span and preserve health.

The work conducted with mice combines a powerful new genetic technique with dietary restriction, the only known way to delay the aging process. The research will be published Friday, Aug. 27, in the journal Science.

The study is a milestone in aging research, providing scientists with an intimate look at the ebb and flow of genetic activity with age, and the roles individual genes play in the process of growing old.

Moreover, it reveals how a low-calorie diet, the only known method of slowing aging in several animal species, works at the most basic level to extend life span and preserve health. Such knowledge, used in concert with new technologies capable of rapidly surveying the activity of thousands of genes at once, promises to accelerate the development of drugs that mimic the age-retarding effects of a low-calorie diet, according to the Wisconsin scientists.

The Wisconsin team, led by Tomas A. Prolla, a UW-Madison professor of genetics, and Richard Weindruch, a UW-Madison professor of medicine, profiled the action of 6,347 genes. The team charted changes in genetic activity in two groups of mice, one group on a standard diet and another group whose diet had been reduced to 76 percent of the standard diet.

"This study has analyzed more genes with regard to aging than all previous studies combined," Prolla said of the study that surveyed 5 to 10 percent of the mouse genome using a "gene chip" -- a small glass plate containing DNA that, when read with a laser, quickly reveals activity levels for thousands of individual genes.

The Wisconsin group found that, with age, the activity of a very small number of genes -- less than 2 percent of those surveyed -- changed markedly. But those genes govern c
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Contact: Tomas A. Prolla
taprolla@facstaff.wisc.edu
608-265-5204
University of Wisconsin-Madison
26-Aug-1999


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