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Researchers link energy levels to living longer

A new theory of aging published by Franklin College researchers in the journal BioEssays addresses the link between ATP levels and aging, based on broad research showing that stored energy levels decrease substantially as animals age:

In the BioEssays article, Snehal Chaudhari and Edward Kipreos of the University Georgia propose the “Energy Maintenance Theory of Aging,” which posits that the survival of older animals requires the maintenance of adequate energy levels. The initial insights for this theory came from their research published in the journal Nature Communications in 2017.

The 2017 study used the roundworm C. elegans, the premier model system for studying aging, to study the impact of mitochondrial size on lifespan. Mitochondria, which generate the majority of ATP in the cell, can fuse together to become larger or fragment to become smaller. Fragmented mitochondria are less efficient at generating ATP, while larger mitochondria generate ATP more efficiently.

C. elegans has many pathways by which animal lifespan can be lengthened through mutations in specific genes. These pathways affect different cell processes and are largely independent of each other. The researchers discovered that 9 of 10 longevity pathways had increased levels of mitochondrial fusion. Inhibiting mitochondrial fusion reduced the extended lifespans of animals for all nine of the long-lived pathways.

“Our paper makes the striking discovery that diverse longevity pathways show increased mitochondrial fusion,” said Kipreos, professor of cellular biology in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“What was of interest to us was the exception – the one longevity pathway that had long lifespan even if we inhibited mitochondrial fusion – we thought this could provide key insights into the link between mitochondrial fusion and longevity,” said Kipreos.

Interesting new findings that, importantly, follow up on the researchers' own 2017 study with a literature review to produce these new insights. Congratulations to Kipreos and Chaudhari, formerly a graduate student at UGA and currently a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School. 

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