July 16, 2024

Newly Discovered Immune Molecule Found to Regulate Aging and Lifespan in Living Organisms

Aging is a natural process that affects all living organisms, causing gradual changes in their behavior and abilities. While scientists have identified various factors that contribute to aging, such as immune responses, oxidative imbalance, and sleep disturbances, the precise link between these factors has remained poorly understood. However, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have recently made a breakthrough discovery. Their study, published in Neuron, reveals the identification of an immune molecule that could play a pivotal role in modulating the process of aging and the lifespan of living organisms.

Driven by previous findings regarding the upregulation of the gene Slpi in the meninges of old mice, the researchers sought to explore the role of this gene in aging. The gene Slpi is evolutionarily conserved and shares similarities with an ortholog called IM33 in Drosophila (fruit flies). Leveraging the genetics and short lifespan of fruit flies, the researchers conducted experiments to investigate the function of IM33 in aging. Simultaneously, the researchers also examined the influence of cytokines on animal behavior, which led to the discovery that IM33 regulates sleep in fruit flies.

Building on their previous studies in mice, which identified mechanisms potentially involved in aging and the impact of cytokines on animal behavior, the researchers hypothesized a connection between these phenomena. To investigate this hypothesis, the study employed a multifaceted approach combining genetics, neuroscience, immunology, and microbiology.

The researchers utilized a range of experimental techniques to examine the effects of knocking down the IM33 gene in fruit flies and mice. They observed that reducing the expression of this gene in the immune cells of fruit flies led to increased levels of reactive oxygen species and alterations in gut microbiota composition. Consequently, the fruit flies experienced oxidative stress, dysbiosis (imbalance in bacterial composition), reduced lifespan, and sleep disturbances. These observations highlight the significant impact of IM33 on aging and lifespan regulation.

According to Wangchao Xu, one of the researchers involved in the study, this research provides proof-of-concept that an immune molecule can serve as a messenger between the brain and gut, regulating various aspects of aging and controlling lifespan. The study sheds light on the importance of neuroimmune interactions in the aging process.

The findings from this study have significant implications for understanding the neural and genetic mechanisms underlying aging. In the future, further research on the IM33 and SLPI genes could lead to crucial discoveries and potential therapies related to aging. Xu suggests that peptidoglycan signaling, an immune pathway, could be a novel target for slowing down aging. However, the mechanisms through which the brain-secreted IM33 shapes the gut immune environment remain unknown, warranting further investigation. Additionally, future studies examining the role of meningeal Slpi in mice will provide valuable insights into the evolutionary conservation of this mechanism and support potential translational studies.

Overall, this research opens up new avenues of exploration in the field of aging and provides a deeper understanding of the complex interplay between the immune system, neural processes, and lifespan regulation.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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