The new study is changing scientists’ understanding of cellular aging’s complex mechanism and presents a potential therapeutic strategy for reducing age-related diseases. The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Modeling of molecular interactions has revealed an enzyme that can reverse the natural cellular aging process. Laboratory experiments have already confirmed the results of scientists from KAIST (Korea Advanced Technology Institute).
Cells are damaged in response to factors such as oxidative stress, DNA damage, and telomere shortening. This process – cellular aging – is important for the human body. It prevents damaged cells from multiplying and turning them into cancerous ones. But the same process leads to aging of the body and age-related diseases. Scientists have long been trying to reverse this process. But the methods used so far impaired tissue regeneration and caused malignant formations.
Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho of KAIST and his colleagues used an innovative strategy to identify molecules that can help reverse the process of cellular aging. Using algorithms, their research, and open databases, the scientists have developed a model that mimics the interactions between these molecules. The analysis made it possible to predict which molecules will help fight cellular aging.
They then examined one of the molecules, the PDK1 enzyme, in incubated senescent skin fibroblasts and 3D models of skin equivalent tissue. They found that blocking PDK1 leads to inhibition of two downstream signaling molecules. This, in turn, restores cells’ ability to return to the cell cycle, rather than leaving it after damage. At the same time, the cells retained the ability to regenerate. Moreover, their reproduction did not lead to malignant transformation.
Scientists recommend further studies of organs and organisms to determine the full effect of PDK1 inhibition. Since the gene encoding PDK1 is overexpressed in some cancers, scientists hope that suppressing it will have anti-aging and anti-cancer effects.