A Medical Fountain of Youth

Carlos Moraes, Ph.D.

Carlos Moraes, Ph.D.

January 05, 2010 — A research group led by Carlos T. Moraes, Ph.D., professor of neurology and cell biology and anatomy at the Miller School, has published new findings about how increased mitochondrial levels may improve overall health and increase longevity.

According to the article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers increased the amount of mitochondria in a mouse model by a transgenic expression of a gene called PGC-1?. The protein produced by this gene controls the expression of many genes that are involved in mitochondrial biogenesis.

Mitochondria, known as the powerhouses of the cell, make the energy that powers cells and are a key player in deciding whether cells live or die.

"By increasing the number of mitochondria in the muscle cells of aged mice, we saw a remarkable improvement in their overall health and they also experienced increased longevity," explains Moraes, senior author of the article titled "Increased muscle PGC-1? expression protects from sarcopenia and metabolic disease during aging."

"It is believed that anti-aging compounds, such as resveratrol, act by stimulating this same PGC-1alpha pathway as well," Moraes adds. "Our earlier research has also shown that the PGC-1? pathway can also be induced through exercise."

By increasing the number of mitochondria in the muscle cells, the researchers were able to protect the mice from age-related phenomena such as muscle wasting and the development of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

"As we age, we lose muscle mass and consequently grow weaker, and over time our metabolic responses also weaken, leading to different types of age-related disorders," Moraes says. "Our team has shown we can protect the muscle cells from dying, resulting in better muscle tone and significantly improved whole-body health, including better bone density and less chronic inflammation."

Tina Wenz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate on the research term, was the first author on the study. Other Miller School authors included Richard Rotundo, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and anatomy, and Susana Rossi, Ph.D., research assistant professor of cell biology and anatomy. The two researchers studied the preservation of the neuromuscular junction in the animal model used in the study.

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