In a triumph for pests, scientists have figured out how to make the fruit fly live longer.
But humans still may get something out of the deal. As reported online in Nature Chemical Biology, the discovery that a single protein can inhibit aging holds implications for human longevity and for treatment of some of the worlds most feared diseases.
This work is important for two reasons, said study author Richard Roberts, associate professor of chemistry, chemical engineering and biology at the University of Southern California.
First, it demonstrates that a single inhibitor can dramatically alter lifespan, a very complex trait. It is remarkable that you can alter it with a single genetic change.
We dont really need to make fruit flies live longer, but if we understand how to do this, our approach may have direct application to higher organisms, such as ourselves.
Secondly, Roberts said, the method used by his research group to make the inhibiting proteins opens the possibility of developing a lot of new therapeutics.
The study describes a new method for blocking receptors involved in aging and disease across many species, including humans.
Receptors are proteins that transmit signals across a cell membrane. In the fruit fly, Roberts and his team manufactured short proteins that blocked a receptor involved in fruit fly aging, as previously demonstrated by co-author Seymour Benzer of Caltech.
Flies with a blocked receptor saw their lives extended by a third, with no apparent side effects.
The same blocking strategy should work in all such receptors, known as class B GPCRs (for G protein-coupled receptors). Many GPCRs figure prominently in disease as well as in normal development, Roberts said.
It is the most targeted family of receptors by drug manufacturers, Roberts
said, estimating that a quarter of all pharmaceuticals focus on GPCR
Contact: Carl Marziali
University of Southern California