Research: Substances that could positively influence the aging process
Who doesn’t dream from time to time of a life that is as long – and healthy – as possible? But everyone ages gradually. However, research has long focused on substances that may have life-prolonging potential; as with the substances contained in red wine and green tea.
Biochemist Corina Madreiter-Sokolowski has studied the role of mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell. The scientist tested the life-extending potential of ingredients in red wine and green tea. Now she is testing other substances to positively influence the aging process.
Role of mitochondria as signal transmitters in the aging process
The substances resveratrol (contained in red wine) and catechins in green tea appear again and again in reports of scientific studies. These two substances would have a positive role in the aging process.
Corina Madreiter-Sokolowski, assistant professor at the Medical University of Graz, soberly explored the potential of the two substances as senolytics and senomorphs, according to an article in “scilog”, the magazine of the Austrian Science Fund FWF (fund for the promotion of the scientific research). .
As explained here, senolytics are therapeutic agents that specifically target the death of aging cells, while senomorphs better prepare cells for aging processes.
In addition to a model of cellular aging, the researcher used the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism, which shares most of the functional proteins and signaling cascades with humans, especially regarding aging processes.
However, the nematode does not live 80 years, but only 30 days, which greatly speeds up drug tests. Specifically, the scientist, who carried out research for three years at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), funded by a Schrödinger grant from the Austrian Science Fund FWF, looked into the role of mitochondria in as signal transmitters in the aging process.
After her return from Switzerland, the biochemist established an ascaris laboratory at the Medical University of Graz, where she draws on the established resources of fluorescence microscopy and develops them further in ascaris research.
Cell power plants
Mitochondria are boldly called the powerhouses of the cell, since the universal energy carrier ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is regenerated in these cell organelles. However, they modify their activity depending on the age of the cell and the calcium supply.
“On the one hand, mitochondria use calcium to provide energy to living cells, on the other hand they also proceed to cell death when the calcium content increases due to cell aging”, explains Corina Madreiter-Sokolowski.
The expert has developed a cell culture model in which the calcium balance and the processes involved in the mitochondria can be examined more closely. In Switzerland, she completed her set of methods with the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.
The advantage of this nematode, in addition to the relatively rapid aging process, is also its transparency. Under a microscope, it is possible to observe the millimeter-long worm and the tagged proteins it contains at work.
As a messenger substance, calcium directs the metabolism
In cooperation with the Med Uni Graz, it was possible to prove that with age, the mitochondria approach the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), another cell organelle, and interact more strongly. The ER folds proteins for use within the cell, but is also the largest intracellular calcium store.
As a messenger, calcium directs metabolism in the cellular powerhouse so that enough of the energy carrier ATP is produced. However, the proximity between the ER and the mitochondria can also be dangerous for aging cells.
“Resveratrol, a component of red wine, increases the absorption of calcium by the mitochondria, which pushes old cells to cell death”, explains the researcher. Therefore, it acts as a senolytic, so that when aging cells absorb even more calcium, they die in a targeted manner.
But why is it important that old cells die? They damage their environment through inflammatory processes and release more oxygen radicals. However, that doesn’t mean aging is better with lots of red wine. “Drinking lots of red wine is more likely to cause liver cirrhosis than to prolong life,” says Madreiter-Sokolowski.
However, research is being conducted vigorously to bring substances with a similar mechanism of action for use in humans.
Green tea as a fountain of youth?
And what about green tea as a fountain of youth? In this context, the biochemist was able to explore the full potential of oxygen radicals at ETH Zurich. Radicals get a bad rap when they attack DNA, RNA, proteins and fats.
In contrast, they regularly form in mitochondria as part of ATP production and, at low doses, are essential signaling molecules, according to the article.
“If we briefly increase the level of oxygen radicals by modifying the mitochondrial processes of the worm using ingredients from green tea, the whole organism is trained to defend itself, like during a vaccination. The proteins that break down free radicals are positively regulated in a timely manner.
In fact, middle-aged roundworms given green tea catechins were found to be healthier in old age than their peers.
Not yet time for dosage recommendations
But it is still too early for dosage recommendations. For active ingredient studies on worms, the team first had to slowly approach the right dose. In addition, the bioavailability of the examined plant components is low. In other words, only a small amount of the active substance actually reaches its destination.
The research results of Madreiter-Sokolowski and her colleagues have been published in the journals “Free Radical Biology and Medicine”, “Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology” and “Aging”.
Based on her results, the scientist and her own research group at the Medical University of Graz are now looking for new substances that can activate the even better described life-prolonging mechanisms.
For the first time, however, research results can now prove what has been widely discussed and circulated as a popular dietary supplement in hopes of long life. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
scilog, magazine of the Austrian Science Fund FWF: How we age and what support us, (accessed: July 5, 2022), scilogTawfik I., Gottschalk B., Jarc A., Bresilla D. et al.: T3-induced enhancement mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake as a stimulant of mitochondrial metabolism; in: Free Radical Biology and Medicine, (published online: 01/26/2022 and in: Volume 181, Pages 197-208, March 2022), Free Radical Biology and MedicineMadreiter-Sokolowski CT, Gottschalk B., Sokolowski AA, Malli R., Graier WF: Dynamic control of mitochondrial Ca2+ levels as a cancer cell survival strategy; in: Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, (published: 2021-02-04, Frontiers in Cell and Developmental BiologyTian J., Geiss C., Zarse K., Madreiter-Sokolowski CT, Ristow M.: Green tea catechins EGCG and ECG improve fitness and lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans by inhibition of complex I; in: Aging, (published: 04.10.2021), Aging
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.